Opinion » Shredder

Bayonet of pigs

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Yeah, I used the word “pigs.” No, I’m not calling all cops pigs. But if you’re more concerned by that term than what you’re about to read, you need to reasses your priorities.

I’m gonna lay some knowledge from The Departed on you: “Let me tell you something. They signed up to use their weapons.” The “they” this character was referring to was cops.

Don’t worry. I’m not dedicating another column to rehashing old Scorsese movies—I proposed it, but my editors won’t let me. I just want to reiterate: People don’t become cops because they’re filled with horror at the idea of shooting or tazing someone. I’ve seen enough videos of cops beating an unarmed suspect to know that the cop’s not usually weeping with remorse over his or her actions. Their victims often are, though. Weeping, anyway.

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So what happens when cops finally manage to get their hands on the good stuff? We’re talking Humvees and bayonets—and no, I had no idea that bayonets had any kind of contemporary relevance beyond Civil War reenactments. Are local cops just going to let these shiny, pointy new toys sit in storage until there’s finally a riot in downtown SLO? Hell no. They’re going to come up with an excuse to use them.

And who are they going to use these Humvees and bayonets and assault rifles against? I hate to say it, folks, but look to your left, look to your right, and then look into a mirror.

Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be killed by an American cop than a foreign terrorist. I’m not trying to incite a riot. I’m just pointing out that the bogeyman under your bed isn’t half as scary as the cops rolling through Ferguson with their military swag, beating and arresting the very people they’re sworn to protect.

Why did all hell break loose in Ferguson, Mo.? Because a cop shot an unarmed young man. The appropriate response would have been remorse, acknowledgement of guilt, and a frank dialogue about how law enforcement could better serve the community. Instead, Ferguson cops finally had an opportunity to bust out the armored vehicles and assault rifles, and they went for it. The fact that this decision pitted them against their very own community, a community in mourning over police brutality, didn’t seem to matter.

And now we know that many local law enforcement departments have been stockpiling “free” military equipment available to them as part of the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program. Of course, none of them seems to understand why that news might be alarming to their communities; in fact, they couldn’t even acknowledge that people’s concerns might have some validity. The fact that most police departments have also turned a blind eye to what’s happening in Ferguson—refusing to reach out to their communities, refusing to speak out against police violence and racism—has helped solidify the attitude that it’s us versus them.

A conversation can go a long way to alleviate fears. But instead, we’re told our fears are unreasonable and irrational. And maybe our cops really do need bayonets and assault rifles from Vietnam. If that’s the case, it shouldn’t really be so difficult to explain why, instead of arguing, “It’s important police business. You wouldn’t understand. Don’t tell us how to do our jobs."

Our fear comes from a very rational place: Not wanting to be treated by cops the way our military treats people in other countries. And not wanting to be treated by cops the way we’ve seen cops treat people.

Personally, I’d like to know what these local cops have planned for all those assault rifles. They’ve already got plenty of guns, and you don’t need an assault rifle to kill someone—a Ferguson cop taught me that.

Even the most gung-ho of departments haven’t found a use for their military toys. A few departments actually sent stuff back to the military, one department’s discussing the possibility of sending it back, and the rest are just biding their time, waiting for the opportunity to go charging down Higuera Street with bayonets and night vision goggles. It probably won’t end well, but at least it will look really cool. And probably feel pretty cool, too, if you’re one of the guys who gets to wield one of the bayonets.

But the craziest thing of all—nuttier than cops rollin’ through Pismo in Humvees, wondering why the citizens are quaking in fear—is that one department opted out of the program, and for reasons so rational I have to wonder whether they’re the only department eating a healthy, balanced breakfast each morning. Pardon my obsession with breakfast cereal, but it’s certainly one way to account for their superior cognitive function.

The voice of reason?

The Morro Bay Police Department, which opted not to participate in the 1033 Program because, according to Cmdr. Bryan Millard, “We’re a smaller agency, so based on resources and what we need, we choose not to participate. We’re a professional municipal police department, and we are public servants. We equip ourselves the way the community would like us to be equipped.”

To which the SLO Police Department had to have responded, “Respect for the community is nice and stuff, but do they have 60 riot control kits?”


Shredder’s brutal, but not police-brutality brutal. Send obscure weapons to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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