Bob Owens writes,
You are forgiven for thinking that a major terrorist attack was thwarted in Sharpsburg, Maryland, this past Thursday. A Maryland State Police helicopter was in the air over 4433 Mills Road most of the day, as police, FBI SWAT teams, armored vehicles, and K-9 units converged upon the residence of Terry Allen Porter, 46.
Porter, however, wasn’t home.
Nor, it turned out, was Porter on any “Most Wanted” lists.
Terry Allen Porter’s home was raided using all the power of the state security apparatus not because he was terrorist, a bank robber, serial killer, or a relative of the Kennedy clan, but because of an anonymous tip that he was an avid outdoorsman:
Officers investigating a weapons complaint have removed guns from a home in Sharpsburg, ending a tense situation that stretched for hours Thursday afternoon.
Maryland State Police troopers were trying to serve a warrant against Terry Porter, a welder and avid hunter, after getting a tip that he had illegal weapons in his house on Mills Road, according to sources familiar with Porter and the investigation.
Even the “illegal weapons” reference in the story was misleading. Porter had run-of-the-mill shotguns, an old lever-action .30/30, and .22 LR rifles anyone might easily buy at Walmart or their neighborhood sporting goods store.
No, Terry Allen Porter required the attention of Maryland State Police, Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies, a helicopter, K-9 units, a heavily armed FBI SWAT team, and two armored vehicles because he had guns and a twenty-year-old conviction for dealing cocaine that landing him in jail for six months in 1992.
The article goes on to note that Porter was a prepper who had expressed dissatisfaction with the results of the recent election. This is what made him a dangerous person in their eyes, justifying a paramilitary assault on his home.
Fortunately, no one was killed.
These kinds of things are happening with increasing regularity in the US, as the police become militarized with weapons more appropriate for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan than for enforcing laws, and the populace criminalized through over-broad and overreaching laws.
It is inevitable that if police have paramilitary gear and programs, they will have to find an excuse to use them in order to justify their expense and existence. The larger question is why so many police departments have SWAT teams and military equipment to begin with, when apparently they really do not need them (example here). The answer is get-tough-on-crime legislation passed by the US Congress and the states, along with a great deal of pork spending which was supported by conservatives because it was for law enforcement.
Likely, if someone had been killed in the raid there would be few legal courses of action that could be taken to punish the police, and the chances of success in getting justice would be small. Again, this comes from people–conservatives–supporting giving a free hand to the police and tough laws on criminals, because they have not stopped to realize that in modern America, everyone is a criminal. Everyone has broken some law–it is simply up to a prosecutor and judge to decide which.
Here is where the rubber meets the road. Conservatives complain about government spending and the increase of laws and regulations, yet if it is supposedly for law enforcement and to fight against crime, they are all for pork and higher government spending, and they are all for increased penalties, harsher laws, and the militarizing of police.
They think all of this will be used against someone else, without realizing that it could just as well be used against them.
It is time for conservatives to start looking more closely at the laws that are passed and police budgets.
Yes, we need tough laws to stop criminals. However, do we need so many laws, and such poorly thought-out laws as to make everyone effectively a criminal? And how about laws that make the police criminally responsible when they bust down the door of a house based upon bad information, guns blazing away, and kill some innocent person? How about laws clearly spelling out when and why SWAT teams and military weapons can be used, and spelling out criminal penalties for when these laws are broken?
Yes, the police need tools and equipment to fight violent crime. But does every small police department in the US really need a SWAT team? Does every police department need military weapons? Do we really need to be policing the streets of America like we are fighting the Taliban, assuming that every person one meets might be a domestic terrorist?