In the wake of the attack on America on September 11, 2001, many initiatives were started to prevent this from happening again. The most sweeping legislation was the consolidation of many Federal agencies into the Department of Homeland Security. With it, billions of dollars were spent to “harden” our country’s civil defenses against a repeat of the horrors of that day.
As with any similar legislation, state and local politicians demanded that their communities be fully protected as metropolitan areas like New York City, Washington, D.C., and other major urban centers. Pork barrel politics quickly turned into a dilutions of these urgently needed funds to fully protect areas that simply just weren’t targets by any stretch of the imagination.
Waterloo, Iowa, is located in the American heartland with a population of just under 69,000. It received Homeland Security money and applied it to arming up against the eventual terrorist attack. This article is not meant to single out Waterloo, but to focus on whether Homeland Security money is being well-spent and on the effects of that largess on small town police departments.
National focus on the police response in Ferguson, Missouri, is belatedly addressing the increasingly militaristic evolution of police department, large and small. This is something that we must urgently address in our national conversation, before we are faced with a real life dystopia.
Do we want even ordinary investigation to become heavy handed urban assaults, even when the putative targets are innocent grandmothers and children?
The problem is that when a local police force obtains Homeland Security largess, it becomes necessary to demonstrate those dollars are being put to good use. Unfortunately, not all communities are the targets of terrorists foreign or domestic so they will use these skills for situations that might have otherwise called for a more modest approach.
I posted last year about how SWAT teams were used to defuse a situation with a 107 year-old malcontent. Read the post here.