The Smart Money: Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming?

Posted Monday, December 9, 2013 in Analysis

The Smart Money: Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming?

by Gina Hamilton

Police Departments are spending their supposedly scarce resources in some pretty strange ways nowadays.

Someone recently sent me a link to a story about Ohio State (the campus police, that is) purchasing an armored personnel carrier.  Is there any evidence that World War III is about to begin in Ohio? It's been a while since student radicals even picked up a rock or two, as far as I know.  So why is an armored personnel carrier worth about $270,000 and which gets about 2 gallons to the mile a good use of the resources?  Especially when student tuition keeps going up?

Naturally, being the inquisitive sort, I decided to take a look at the equipment Maine sheriff's offices and police departments are investing in, and lo and behold, in October, the Oxford Sheriff's Department was offered ... and voted to accept ... a $658,000 armored vehicle from the federal government.  The thing is the size of a tractor trailer truck, weighs 38,000 pounds, and can carry four or five stretchers.  Imagine what 38,000 pounds will do to Western Maine roads for a quick second. 

Oxford County says it needs one because of some hitherto unidentified "previously unimaginable terrorist threat" in Western Maine.

But Oxford County isn't alone in this boondoggly acquisition program. Cumberland and Franklin county sheriff’s offices, and Brunswick, Sanford, Old Orchard Beach, Lewiston, Portland, and South Portland police departments were also approved to receive the vehicles.

Yes, indeed, very soon, you may see a giant armored personnel carrier roaming the streets of Brunswick.

Now, none of the towns and sheriff's offices are paying for the things; they are military surplus, and rather than being sent back to some actual battlefield, or even some military base, where the real soldiers are, they are being housed in towns like Brunswick and South Paris and Old Orchard Beach, where civilian police officers can play at soldiering.

It should be alarming to anyone who prefers a civilian police force to a military state that these weapons ... for weapons they are ... are being stockpiled in small towns across the country, towns where there are peaceful populations, colleges, schools filled with children, and prosperous business communities.

Except for the amorphous threat of unspecified terrorist activity in the western mountains, and the fear of mass shooting incidents ... and honestly, has Maine ever had a mass shooting incident that didn't involve deer or pheasant? ... there seems to be no rationale for these vehicles in our state. 

A poll taken by a radio station demonstrated that Mainers not only think the idea of Maine police forces obtaining these machines is absurd, but have strong misgivings about militarizing the police.  In the poll, 75 percent responding said that they opposed the program, and 25 percent responded "other" to the question.  Virtually no one responding thought that Maine police needed them because Maine had become more dangerous.

The cost of diesel fuel, storage, training, and maintenance will be high, even if the vehicles themselves cost nothing.  In an era when every government nickel is pinched until the eagle squawks, can anyone explain why this was suddenly deemed a necessary and prudent step for Maine's police forces to take?

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