A fascinating story in the Huffington Post hits a CEI trifecta: abuse of government authority, climate change alarmism, and reckless spending of civil forfeiture funds.
It’s now an old story that police departments across the country are increasingly buying surplus military vehicles to use in civilian environments. And if you think there’s something a little disquieting about seeing the cops drive tanks, Humvees, or blast-proof military trucks down Main Street, you’re not alone. The federal 1033 program that arms civilian law enforcement personnel with weapons, vehicles, and gear left over from foreign wars has come under widespread criticism. For instance, after a military vehicle was used to monitor protests this summer and fire tear gas at peaceful protestors, Iowa City council members demanded that the massive, mine-resistant conveyance be returned to the Pentagon.
Last year, Congress made a small change to the 1033 program: It created priority access for law-enforcement buyers who cited disaster-related public safety needs. This resulted in the explosive growth of purchase justifications to include floods, storms, and blizzards. Climate change made for lots of government spending. Requests from southern states mentioned Gulf Coast hurricanes, while northeastern departments cited Superstorm Sandy. As the Huffington Post notes, many of the police purchases were funded by civil asset forfeiture.
These requests suggest that the use of military hardware to deal with extreme weather events is more of a fig leaf than anything else. The surplus war gear handed off to law enforcement officers encourages greater use of dangerous and destructive military-style tactics when serving warrants and searching for drugs. It’s almost certainly true that this hardware gets used in actual climatological disasters; the difficulty is that heavily armed and armored police are more likely to use or overuse force in a variety of situations. Law enforcement agents have even used military vehicles to swarm and evict Native Americans in North Dakota protesting the environmental impact of pipelines. It seems unlikely that those protesters appreciated the attention that law enforcement officers were giving to climate change.