Wednesday, February 08, 2012
On June 6, 2011, in Oakland Park, Florida, James Doe, who was 31 years old and only 130 pounds, was tasered by police while he was handcuffed and locked in the back of a cruiser. He fell limp, and was pronounced dead upon his arrival at Florida Medical Center. James was just one of 40 deaths that occur every year as a result of the unnecessary or excessive use of Taser equipment by law enforcement officials.
Backtracking: In Chicago, a team of research scientists and doctors at the Cook County hospital trauma center stunned 6 pigs with two 40-second Taser discharges. All six animals exhibited heart rhythm problems. Two subsequently died of cardiac arrest. A San Francisco cardiologist and electrophysiologist, Dr. Zian Tseng, determined that a healthy individual could die from a Taser discharge, depending on electrode placement on the chest and pulse timing. Taser International then contacted him, asking him to reconsider his statements to the media on the subject, and then offered him “funding” to further his research. CBC News Story.
But Taser International is hardly the only private firm that profits by militarizing local police forces.
This Blog has been particularly critical of the increasing use of Pepper-Spray by Police forces. Excessive and indiscriminate use of the chemical has been used with increased frequency across the nation, particualarly at Occupy Protests; several photos and videos that caught pepper spray incidents in New York and at U. California–Davis went viral and heightened public attention and condemnation of the practice.
(see U C Davis Pepper Spray and NYPD Pepper Spray )
Police reactions in both cases initially consisted of lies and cover ups which couldn’t stand up to the evidence in the videos, and the officers in both of those cases were disciplined. Unfortunately, even as I write this, the state of Florida is now investigating the case of Nick Christie, a 62-year old mentally ill man who was bound, restrained and tied to a chair in a Flordia jail and coated with pepper spray in 2009. He died two days later.
Pepper spray was approved in the US for police use in spite of objections by US military scientists in 1991, and is now in use in 2,000 local jurisdictions. Subsequent to that approval, it was discovered that Thomas W. Ward, the head of the FBI's Less-Than-Lethal Weapons Program who approved pepper spray’s use on civilians, received payments from Luckey Police Products, a pepper spray manufacturer, while authoring the FBI study that led to its use. Ward received $57,500 in increments of $5,000 a month paid through his wife. He was sentenced to two months in prison.
In the meantime, various courts have declared its use to be cruel and excessive, and twelve citizens die each year from pepper-spray induced asthma attacks or asphyxiation.
News of the increased militarization and forcefulness on the part of American officers “of the peace” are accelerating with frightening speed. Congress recently passed the NDAA bill, permitting the military to detain US citizens without trial or charge indefinitely; the Obama administration has admitted to the expanded use of spy drones over the United States; and after the Super Bowl this past weekend, state and local police arrived in riot gear and on horseback at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst campus, “in anticipation” of student crowds. When the police decided the crowd on the public, state-owned property was "too big,” they moved in and dispersed students who, up to that moment, had broken no law and caused no damage.
And so, in this atmosphere of the growing American Police State, the city Council of Keene, New Hampshire has attempted to purchase a military tank, without public input, for the purposes of “rescue missions."
The City of Keene recently announced that its would use a grant of $285,933 from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase a "Bearcat" vehicle from LENCO, a company that prides itself on developing and selling vehicles for military and SWAT-team use. Of 15 City Councilors, only one – Terry M. Clark – opposed the purchase.
After the Council vote, citizen response was swift. A petition in opposition to acquiring the Bearcat was delivered to the City Council, signed by 144 residents. The opposition has crossed political lines, uniting conservatives, liberals, and libertarians. Initially, the City Council decided that they would simply “accept” the petition without discussing the issue again. Council Member Terry Clark then formally requested that the issue be returned to the City’s Finance Committee for a public hearing; the Council agreed, and this Thursday, Feb 9 at 5:30 pm the first public hearing on the issue will be held.
In the meantime, LENCO is attempting to backtrack. The Bearcat purchase is being ‘recast’ as an effort to purchase a “rescue” vehicle that will help Keene citizens in need. The LENCO website, however, approaches this issue quite differently. On its Website advertising six varieties of Bearcats (its domain name is, tellingly, “SwatTrucks.com”), LENCO describes the vehicles as having the following attributes:
“Primary APC used by SWAT & SRT, Military Police, and Security Forces”
“Designed for Military personnel. Military-style turret can be configured for .50 caliber Dillon Mini-Guns and CROWS.”
“All Military Spec Steel construction. Currently used by SWAT and Special Op Teams at high security facilities.”
“V-Hull Blast Shield protects against grenades and IED attacks”
None of these sounds like the attributes of a “rescue” vehicle. In fact, LENCO had a video advertisement on YouTube that promoted its product: it showed military and SWAT teams exiting the vehicle, firing military weapons, drilling holes through house walls, and spraying toxic gases.
In the heat of the controversy, LENCO pulled the video ad off of YouTube.
But thanks to our friends at CopBlock, the video is included here. You watch, and you decide, whether this is a “rescue” vehicle or another military toy to facilitate the police state’s intimidation and control over the citizenry: