Yet another aspect of debate coming on the heels of the terror attack on a Florida nightclub is the discussion of “demilitarizing” our police departments.
In light of the Kevlar helmet that saved the life of one officer during the melee, some are warning that we can’t take demilitarizing too much, lest we leave police unprepared to respond to terror attacks.
During a segment on Fox News about the Orlando, Florida terror attack, Paul Viollis, the host of the upcoming TV series “The Security Brief,” was asked about the growing number of domestic police forces equipped by the federal government with military-style guns, armored vehicles, and other tactical devices. Specifically, Viollis was asked if we as a nation should continue the recent interest in taking these tools away from our local police forces.
Since the riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, many felt the military-styled weapons and material police used was too much with many feeling the average police force does not need weapons of war on hand. And as the debate grew it became known police departments were being supplied with these military tools by our own federal government in a Pentagon program meant to unload surplus military equipment onto local police forces. Many decried this as turning our police forces into armies instead of community police.
During this past Presidential primary cycle, for instance, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul insisted that we must demilitarize the police. President Obama also announced plans to scale back the Pentagon’s program of sending military equipment to local police departments.
But the question of having local police equipped with military surplus arises anew because one of the police officers who responded to the nightclub incident was shot in the head by the radical Islamist who attacked the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The officer survived only because he was wearing a military-styled, Kevlar tactical helmet.
During the Fox segment, Viollis noted that this incident and the officer’s military-styled helmet are exactly why we should be careful about this move to demilitarize police.
Viollis reminded viewers of one of the reasons police forces began to “militarize” themselves in the first place: the gunfight between FBI agents and two bank robbers in Miami, Florida in 1986.
“What’s incumbent upon us right now,” Viollis said, “is to reflect a little bit on 1986 in Miami. Remember, FBI outnumbered gunman four to one, but yet they were outgunned leaving two FBI agents dead and five more seriously injured all because they did not have the proper armament to protect themselves and to do their job. We learned from that, but we have to reflect on that today.”
“We simply can not allow,” Viollis continued, “the quote-unquote aesthetics of a tactical police response and how that may, in fact, possibly offend somebody to alter how we arm out police officers. We are in combat situations as we can see here and they have to be protected because if they’re not, then the community simply will not be protected.”
Viollis didn’t mention it, but another such incident was the gunfight between police and body-armored bank robbers in North Hollywood in 1997. In that case police were again outgunned and unable to properly respond as the two crooks shot up the neighborhood while easily fending off police because the criminals had high-powered armament and full, military-styled body armor.
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