A Federal/Local Government Action That Makes Both Conservatives And Liberals Flinch
Those of you, who know me, know that I am not a real big “government conspiracy” guy. However, I always love to listen to any conspiratorial story. I can easily listen to most suggestions of government conspiracy to cover up and hide and take over various aspects of our daily lives. I may not agree with those who propose these theories, but my goal is to always leave all conversations with people as friends first, and then to be more informed second.
With that said, it is hard, real hard, to not be more inclined to the “government takeover” conspiracy when the current Presidential administration engages in certain activities with local government administrations. The particular activity in question has to do with the militarization of our local law enforcement agencies. By now, some of you have already become familiar with the fact that our local governments are becoming more and more militarized. In short, the Department of Defense is releasing some its equipment to local law enforcement agencies for their use under the 1033 Program. We saw evidence of this disbursal with the live TV coverage of the unfortunate happenings in Ferguson, Missouri. Locally, many of our law enforcement agencies, including NMSU in Las Cruces, New Mexico, have taken advantage of these offers from the government. In fact, the Midland County Sheriff’s Office has taken possession of a MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle within the last few months. Thus, this is not some wild conspiracy theory, but indeed real enough for the New York Times to have created an interactive map showing where some of the military’s surplus gear (including body armor, night vision equipment, assault weapons, grenade launchers and MRAPS) have gone to local counties. The militarization of our communities has become such a universal concern that many on the right, left and in the pseudo-middle/left are raising awareness to the issue.
When I started looking into this, I read stories from every angle. However, the more I read the more questions and concerns I had that made me flinch. Below are a few of my “flinch” questions. Of my two local law enforcement agencies, only the Sheriff’s office has taken advantage of the 1033 Program. I have included Sheriff Painter’s responses in bold below to the questions and concerns that I have:
- If you figured out that once the local authorities took possession of these weapons that the federal authorities might take the weapons back and then use them contrary to the wishes of the local LEOs (law enforcement officers), did you flinch?
[Sheriff Painter: Unless the federal authorities declared Martial Law, I do not see that ever happening. You would be reaching a long way to get to that scenario. I know several of the Sheriffs in the other jurisdictions including Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. They are good people and I believe that you can trust them to do the right thing.]
- If you checked the link for your own county and you saw that your home county received a “mine resistant vehicle” or a “grenade launcher,” did you flinch?
[Sheriff Painter: Midland County did not request a grenade launcher. I will explain my reasons why we needed a MRAP below.]
- If you had to think for any length of time for reasons “why” your county might need a “mine resistant vehicle,” did you flinch?
[Sheriff Painter: Our need for a vehicle of this type has been proven time after time. We have had several occasions in the past here in Midland County where a suspect was so heavily armed that the rolling out of the MRAP was the only thing that ended the situation. Additionally, the drug cartels are increasingly becoming more and more violent. These cartels are also becoming better armed. As a law enforcement officer, it is my duty to be better armed than the criminals. This MRAP vehicle acquisition is a response to the criminals becoming better armed. There was a situation in West Odessa a few years ago that exemplified this previous point. In that situation, the suspect used a high powered rifle to flatten the tires of the armored personnel carrier. The suspect’s weapon also nearly penetrated the windshield directly in front of the driver. That carrier had to be taken out of from service because it was so heavily damaged during that incident by one suspect. If a MRAP had been available in that situation, it would not have been damaged much at all.]
- If you asked yourself, “[c]an I imagine a scenario where these weapons might ever be used against me or my family,” did you flinch?
[Sheriff Painter: Again, I know my people [deputies] and I know several of my fellow elected Sheriffs. Other than a declaration of Martial Law, I cannot imagine a scenario where my deputies or my fellow Sheriffs would ever use or permit the use of this equipment against Texans.]
- If you realized that I have not even talked about the financial burden of storing, operating and maintaining these weapons, did you flinch?
[Sheriff Painter: Our MRAP and any other similar equipment obtained under the 1033 Program had already been paid for by the federal government. Our only expenses are the expenses for storage, operating and maintenance which will be paid for by drug seizure money. No Midland County tax dollars will be used for this vehicle.]
Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problems with some of our local law enforcement authorities obtaining and maintaining certain surplus items such as night vision equipment, body armor or even tactical assault type weapons. And, I absolutely trust Sheriff Gary Painter and Midland Chief of Police Price Robinson. And having over 12 years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, I can honestly say that there are no active duty head LEOs that I trust more at this moment than either of these two men. However, it is not my local head LEOs that scare or concern me. What scares me is the simple fact that not every community has the benefit of people like Sheriff Painter and Chief Robinson. In short, I am still just not sure that I can trust the other head LEOs.
As for me, I will keep asking the tough questions. I know I will have more questions about this subject. For now, I appreciate Sheriff Painter’s time to answer my questions.
And, please keep talking to me about your conspiracy theories.