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.
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.