From Radley Balko comes the news that the Sheriff’s Department of Richland County, South Carolina, now has an armored personnel carrier with a .50 caliber machine gun.
Is there no end to this insanity? Did the Sheriff just sit down one day and say, “You know, terrorizing people with SWAT teams wielding automatic rifles is cool and all, but the risk of slaughtering innocent bystanders just isn’t high enough?” Have the local pot dealers started hiring mechanized infantry battalions to provide muscle?
When I was younger, I was irritated by the practice of using the term “civilian” to mean “people other than those in law enforcement.” Police, I reasoned, are civilians just as much as I am, not soldiers, and it’s dangerous to have the police thought of as some sort of military force, lest they start to think of the American people as a subject population to be subdued rather than fellow citizens to be defended. I’ve concluded that I was right on the political philosophy but wrong about the reality on the ground; more and more, police are correct in thinking that they are not “civilians.” More and more, American law enforcement is an army, and the rest of us are a subject population to be subdued.