Massive ACLU initiative aims to measure police state’s growth

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, March 6, 2013 15:54 EDT
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A police SWAT team. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Wednesday that chapters in 23 states have filed over 255 open records requests pertaining to the militarization of local police departments around the country since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in what the group is calling its most concentrated effort yet to assess the growth of America’s police state.

“The American people deserve to know how much our local police are using military weapons and tactics for everyday policing,” Allie Bohm, ACLU advocacy and policy strategist, said in an advisory. “The militarization of local police is a threat to Americans’ right to live without fear of military-style intervention in their daily lives, and we need to make sure these resources and tactics are deployed only with rigorous oversight and strong legal protections.”

Information requests filed Wednesday focus on several areas of police training and equipment, including how many special weapons and tactics teams are operating and how many times they’ve been deployed, the weapons they used, any civilian casualties caused by SWAT operations and where their training and funding is coming from.

The ACLU is also seeking information on the use of drone aircraft by local law enforcement, along with GPS tracking systems, any military weapons obtained from the federal government and so-called “shock cuffs” that can be programmed to deliver electric shocks or even sedative injections to restrained detainees.

“Equipping state and local law enforcement with military weapons and vehicles, military tactical training, and actual military assistance to conduct traditional law enforcement erodes civil liberties and encourages increasingly aggressive policing, particularly in poor neighborhoods and communities of color,” ACLU Center for Justice attorney Kara Dansky added. “We’ve seen examples of this in several localities, but we don’t know the dimensions of the problem.”

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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