During his closing monologue of Friday’s Real Time, HBO’s Bill Maher aimed squarely at what has become a largely-unspoken civil liberties threat at home.
“Now that violent crime is at a 40-year low, someone has to explain why your local police department has gone from this to this,” Bill Maher said:
Maher ran through the gamut of American small towns (e.g. — Doraville, Ga., Nixon, Mo., Justice, Ill.) that somehow employ military-style tanks in their police departments. These tanks, often gifted by the Pentagon to police departments, come “fresh from our glorious victories in Iraq and Afghanistan,” and are used for unnecessarily over-militarized police exercises.
“Cops all know what it’s like when you get a new toy, you want to use it.” he continued. “I bought a glue gun once, and by the end of the weekend my dog’s face was stuck to the toilet rim. But in West Springfield, Mass., the police department’s new toy is two grenade launchers. Why? In case Boko Haram takes Connecticut?” he joked.
Local police in Tennessee are stockpiling military grade weapons and have no intention of returning them:
Local law enforcement agencies are snatching up huge amounts of weapons -- from the Department of Defense -- used in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Items include grenade launchers, mine-resistant vehicles and guns that have been deemed as surplus by the Pentagon.
The equipment is cheap or free for local law enforcement agencies to acquire.
The federal program has fueled a debate about the militarization of our police departments.
McMinn County is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It boasts beautiful scenery, but its sheriff's department can boast something else.
The department received more military surplus guns than any other local department in the state last year.
"We actually reconfigured the whole armory to accommodate all of this," said Sheriff Joe Guy.
Sheriff Guy oversees 31 officers and investigators, but his department received 161 army rifles and pistols, including 71 M16 rifles and 71 .45-caliber pistols.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Why does your department need all these guns?"
Sheriff Guy responded, "Well, we don't need this many. There was a little error in the order."
The Sheriff said the Army surplus program doubled his initial order, but he hasn't sent the guns back.
"They're here as our department grows. We'll have additional firearms for future officers," Sheriff Guy said.
Other interesting moments from Maher's monologue:
If you’d like more information about police militarization, check out Radley Balko‘s Washington Post blog for regular dispatches from that front.