Following the police-involved shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, unrest has gripped a St. Louis suburb as protesters and police have clashed for two days straight. The looting and violence that occurred after the tragic shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, resulted not only in multiple arrests, but also a stronger police response.
That brings us to the seemingly glossed over aspect of the unrest in Ferguson: the startling militarization of local police forces.
Some of the photos coming out of Ferguson more closely resemble a war zone than a suburban community in Missouri.
Officers — some riding in military vehicles — responded to the unrest wearing full-camo riot gear, combat boots and armed with “short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters,” according to Business Insider’s Paul Szoldra.
Szoldra, who served on a U.S. Marine on patrol in Afghanistan, brings a unique perspective to the police situation in Ferguson:
While serving as a U.S. Marine on patrol in Afghanistan, we wore desert camouflage to blend in with our surroundings, carried rifles to shoot back when under enemy attack, and drove around in armored vehicles to ward off roadside bombs.
We looked intimidating, but all of our vehicles and equipment had a clear purpose for combat against enemy forces. So why is this same gear being used on our city streets?
Their uniform would be mistaken for a soldier’s if it weren’t for their “Police” patches. They wear green tops, and pants fashioned after the U.S. Marine Corps MARPAT camouflage pattern. And they stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP.
“Why do these cops need MARPAT camo pants again,” I asked on Twitter this morning. One of the most interesting responses came from a follower who says he served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division: “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone.”
Have local police forces become too militarized? Take our poll below: