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August 25, 2014 / jeffnward

Another View: Todd Martin on the militarization of the police

While I have serious concerns about a Militarized police force, our local elected and officials & the public seem to broadly support SWAT style police equipment & training.

When I raised the issue of Elgin’s purchase of our armored troop transport (complete with gun turrets), the reply at the time was that it is to protect people and is not an offensive weapon, The assumption is that SWAT will only be used against the bad guys and for hostage situations. No one took my objection seriously. I wasn’t the only one who reached out, but we were a small minority opinion. 

Todd Martin

Todd Martin

However, as we see in Ferguson, the local police (among other things) put a man with a MACHINE GUN on top of an armored vehicle to stop local residents from walking the streets. Why? Did they feel the protestors needed to be shot down en masse if they got too close? Did they feel they just needed to scare them? Did they feel that threatened by unarmed civilians? Do you think the residents of Ferguson really wanted that?

Jeff, your SWAT photo for Antioch (population 14000) shows 14 SWAT officers with M16 assault rifles (30 round clips). How many SWAT officers do they need to address a hostage situation? Why do they need to wear camouflage? If they need a sniper, why not a bolt action rifle. Why 14 snipers instead of 1 or 2? The Posse Comitatus Act was passed to keep us from Army occupation. If the Police are given Army equipment, how are they any different?

We do have great Police Chief. Chief Swoboda runs a great police force. Our crime rate is low and we have few complaints. However, it is not perfect. Our Elgin police force shares some of the same problems which plague Ferguson. We have officers who mostly live outside the City. Our police officers (especially the higher ranks) are much less diverse than our community. We don’t have much in the way of foot patrols or bike patrols (community policing), they mostly work out of cars (and lately it seems tending toward BIG SUV’s). Selective “targeted” enforcement to drive out the “bad apples” carries risks of discrimination and injustice. Some of these issues are being worked on (they’re lowering the entrance requirements) and some are not. There are community relations risks which must be managed every day.

It is easy for people to think Ferguson is fundamentally different than us. That our police officers are fundamentally better. That Elgin residents would never take to the streets and get stirred up enough to riot. And if they did, we need SWAT to tear gas Elginites because only the “bad guys” would be out on the street after “curfew”. I don’t think that way. We’re not any better human beings. Unless what is “Normal” for local police changes, we’re rolling the dice each time something happens. In my view, tear gas should never be used for crowd control. Machine guns have no place in local police enforcement. Police should be engaged with the community, not garbed up like a Marine.

3 Comments

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  1. Mark Wells / Aug 25 2014 8:22 pm

    I agree 100%. I also feel local law enforcement is pretty good here in Aurora and in Kane county in general. I don’t see daily no-knock raids going on like some other cities. However, that could easily change overnight in a future election.

  2. The other Jeff N / Aug 25 2014 9:27 pm

    When the Superintendent of CPD thinks you’re overdoing it (the PD that epitomized excessive force during the Democratic convention in ’68), you KNOW you’ve gone too far. Yes, today Gary McCarthy talked about not putting guys w/ rifles and armor up front, engaging w/ the community instead of escalating the situation, etc.

  3. The Observer / Aug 26 2014 1:21 pm

    When society’s thug element decides any “offense,” real or iagined, is a valid reason to loot, burn and kill, what is government’s option? Let them destroy, or stop them?
    What limitation is “enough,” What is “excessive?” Who must make this ON THE SPOT decision?

    This cannot be “phoned-in,” it must be an immediate decision by someone on the scene.. The equipment needed must be immediately available on-site, or nearby.

    Those “Community” demonstrators were not passive in this case. Molotov cocktails (gasoline fire bombs) were thrown. This is DEADLY FORCE on the part of those throwing them. The vandalism that occurred in Chicago during the 1968 Democrat convention is another example. Despite what the younger readers of this column might have been mis-taught through their liberal textbooks, this was a real riot, with real casualties among both the demonstrators AND the police. I am old enough to remember it well. An earlier racially-agitated riot in Chicago also opened Hell’s gate to looting, rioting and fire=-bombing, and was only brought to a halt by then-mayor Richard J, Daley’s order that rioters MUST be halted, “SHOOT TO KILL,” if necessary.

    The rioting stopped.

    YES, heavy armaments CAN be used against the general citizenry. But this is a constitutional republic, and the military and police are also citizens. It is my hope that if given an unconstitutional order, someone in authority, or the men themselves, will refuse to obey it.

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