US debates APCs after Ferguson killing

By Andre Bagoo
September 30 2014 –

Armoured Personnel CarriersARMOURED vehicles similar to the Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) destined for use in TT next year are currently at the centre of a debate in the United States over the increased militarisation of the police there, in the wake of their reported use during the events at Ferguson, where police force provoked a national discussion about State powers and race.

On August 9, Michael Brown, a young black man, was shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St Louis. The incident, the circumstances of which were disputed, reignited race tensions, triggering protests and civil unrest.

The reaction of local police, however, was heavily criticised. There were concerns over insensitivity, tactics and a militarised response.

Ferguson police reportedly deployed stun grenades, rubber bullets and 40mm wooden baton rounds to quell the protests in a town whose population was relatively modest: 21,000. The tactics came as a shock nationally, reveal the extent to which local police bodies in that country have over the years become militarized. The local police also released prejudicial video footage, a move which was also heavily criticised.

Eventually, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon ordered the control for the response to be shifted to the Missouri Highway Patrol and a de-escalation ensued with mainly peaceful protests continuing for the next weeks.

On August 12, US President Barack Obama released a statement describing Brown’s killing as “heartbreaking” and stating that the Department of Justice had opened an investigation.

Just last week at the United Nations, Obama referred to the Brown shooting.

“In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri – where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions,” Obama told the annual UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Wednesday. “Like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalisation and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.”

Amid all of this, communities in the United States have become weary of the militarisation of their own police forces, a process which has been linked to a programme of the Defence Department. Since 2006, according to a New York Times report, the Pentagon has distributed 432 mine- resistant armoured vehicles to local police departments. It has also distributed out more than 400 other armoured vehicles, 500 aircraft, and 93,000 assault rifles. The move came under a clause in 1990 legislation which allowed the transfer of “excess personal property” from the military to local law enforcement agencies.

But recently, the images from Ferguson have sparked anxiety over these vehicles, leading some local communities to ask their authorities to return the armoured vehicles to the Defense Department.

On August 29, the LA Times, reported that city officials in Davis, California, directed their police department to return a surplus US military armoured vehicle to the federal government after residents – citing images seen during protests in Ferguson – expressed fears of militarisation.

The Davis Police Department was given 60 days to get rid of a US$689,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armoured vehicle, which police acquired through the Defence Department.

“I am opposed to the investments that are made and then the results of those investments flowed back to our community in ways that may not hurt our community in a physical sense by are destructive in terms of not increasing our security but increasing our anxiety,” Councilman Robb Davis said at a council meeting in August. The LA Times reported that a large crowd attended the meeting to protest the acquisition of the armoured vehicle, including a man wearing a “Tank the Tank” T-shirt. The planned acquisition of the vehicles locally by the Ministry of National Security came to the fore after the ministry published advertisements showing the vehicles. It was estimated by officials that the vehicles would cost about $63 million and several dozens – of different classes – would be acquired, though these figures were later disputed. The Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, stated approval for only six vehicles had been granted and she further stated the vehicles would make the country safer for all citizens.

The Minister of National Security has argued that the equipment were needed as it was better to be safe than sorry. He also stated they vehicles would been needed for certain specific kinds of threats, such as attacks involving explosives. On the other hand the proportionality of the expenditure has been questioned.

Local behaviour change consultant Franklyn Dolly on Saturday last argued the vehicles could have the unintended effect of provoking unrest.

In the United States, while there is anxiety, some officials also argue that the vehicles are needed. Davis police Chief Landy Black said the armoured vehicle was needed for police protection in high-risk situations.

“We have a genuine and job-specific need for the types of equipment that most people wish that they wouldn’t have in their communities because of the nature of the job that we have,” he said. Although Davis is a safe community, Black said, certain situations have required police agencies to improve and increase their capabilities.


6 Responses to “US debates APCs after Ferguson killing”

  • Trinidad is a small nation with hardly much military or policing hardware. In a U.S. township of 21,000 citizen driving around in APC is a bit excessive. The U.S. is one of the most weaponized nation on earth. Whatever military or policing assets they need is available within a few hours. Trinidad does not have military or policing hardware available at the ready.

    When it is peaceful that is the time to prepare for war. The APC is needed in TnT as was evident in the recent Besson St. shootout. There has been sniper bullets flying between rival gangs in Laventille with an absent police force in times past. Some parts of TnT requires APC due to the high level of gang activities. Of course in the US case there has always been the underlying thread of racism and excessive force hence the “kickback”.

    The government duty first and foremost is to maintain law and order. If they fail to keep the peace then they are failing the nation. 21st century policing requires a complete review of threat and equipment to deal with such threats. Why? Because of the illegal entry of sophisticated weapons due to
    the close proximity to Venezuela. With APC in the police inventory policing some of the areas where there has been a history of violence and murder will become easier. There will be no need for an SoE.

  • “The Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, stated approval for only six vehicles had been granted and she further stated the vehicles would make the country safer for all citizens.”
    ……… attributed to Kamla
    “The Minister of National Security has argued that the equipment were needed as it was better to be safe than sorry.”………….. attributed to NS minister

    In the world in which we live today, decisions on security and militarized force are generally discussed by trained professionals with understandings of impact, results, social and other human understandings of such use before giving politicians the go ahead to make public declarations of purchase and use.
    While we know that Kamla is prime minister and Griffith is the minister of national security and therefore has the authority to make such decisions, we know for sure that neither of them possess such military expertise. So, in this respect, we have to assume that they were so advised. If per chance they were so advised, the question have to be what are the qualifications of the people advising them? This kind of force has never occurred in this country before, and while there are many people like Mamoo, who by reason of political affiliations believe that whatever decisions the leaders make is OK, those of us with military and security experiences are very aware of use, mis-use, ill-advised decisions and other maladies that can and may occur in operations such as these that the politicians so casually approve because they believe it is good politics, can sometimes cause negative and un-wanted repercussions. There is little or no intelligence gathered about the psychological, physical and mental stability of members of the defense force. To begin with, we don’t have the training and expertise to deal with the state of mind of these individuals in the first place. So, if it is believed that all we have to do is purchase equipment, train the forces on use and then send them out to face people whom the politicians believe is against them, then good luck!
    I am very aware of the mentality of most soldiers and I’m not sure that operations as those envisioned by the politicians will have a positive outcome if they were used here.

    • “This kind of force has never occurred in this country before, and while there are many people like Mamoo, who by reason of political affiliations believe that whatever decisions the leaders make is OK”

      Kian recently the Besson St. police station came under fire from gangs. A few weeks ago there was gang warfare on the hill and an innocent lady was killed. These gang controlled areas are like war zones requiring protective equipment to manage and control things. I say buy a 100 of these and equip every station with at least five.

      • Mamoo, like another ISIS creation here in small T&T. U aint see what was created by the US experts in crime. Live and learn. God gave all a we brain. Life is really one huge university for all of us, save the privileged few as in the UNC who uses tax payer’s monies to do their do. Mamoo you need to learn not copy life experiences elsewhere, especially those experiences that clearly do not work but create more trouble in the end, like ISIS and do not forget the resultant effects of the huge refugee population that’s over crowding even the US borders. Your sins always follow you.

  • Mamoo, one of the things that serious minded people do is that they try to understand issues. If crime is high, there is a criminal hiding out in a house in LAVENTILLE (his parents house), the police decision is to use the armored vehicle to flush him out and they are determined to end it there come what may, the neighbors in the surrounds have no say, what good can come out of such a situation? Killing him might satisfy the police and you but what about the onlookers? what about neighbors? what about the psyche of the neighborhood? what about the social implications? what about the good name of the police force? what about our standing as a country, at home, region and internationally? Mamoo, I assume that you are a paid blogger who sole interest is in supporting this government, come what may! and that is your right, but we, as individuals, have a right to do and say the right thing, even though it may sometimes go contrary to our political instincts. This is a situation where the use of excessive force is very, very likely because when one is authorized to use force, they will always find a reason to use it. As one who has had many years experience in both the Army and Police Force, I’m acutely aware of the dangers and repercussions of bad decisions and this is one of them. You may not want to hear it because discussions like these are not soothing to your political ears and eyes. But we need wisdom in our leaders. College Degrees go dime a dozen and they are abundant in our population but wisdom, which is not just an accumulation of knowledge but also how you use knowledge is lacking in the higher echelons of this society. It is nauseating to read the utterances of people who are supposed to know better speaking in ways that ordinary folks find offensive to better understanding. When we elect people to create laws which govern all the people, we hope their intellect would give us the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin, Aristotle, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Ghandi and Eric Williams. We can use the brains of Einstein, Freud and Rudranath Capildeo to educate our young but they will be mis-fits in formulating laws on how we should live. My hope is that those who read my conversation do not take it out of context but will understand that what I’m saying is that we should not put square pegs in round holes. This is exactly what is driving this conversation and people like me must be given a voice (even if it is ignored by the powers that be) but I’m sure there are those in our readership who understand why there should be opposition to bad governance. Griffith is wrong, Kamla is wrong, Anand is wrong and all those responsible for this procurement is wrong is pursuing the acquisition of these vehicles. Other methods can be used to desalt with the kind of crime and criminals that occupy this land and wisdom should prevail in the eradicating of this evil that befall us.

  • As crime in TNT mimics more and more the crime of the United States, I find that it is imperative that law enforcement keeps pace. However with that in mind, the judicial system of the United States is more stable, complex and larger than that of TNT.The questionable actions of police and the impact of those actions in TNT would cause me to pause in deciding the overall benefit to the safety of society. These APC vehicles must protect and serve all members of society and not just become weapons to greater disenfranchise weaker segments of society in civil protest. No offense, but morality and ethics need to be better addressed in positions of power before the power is reinforced.

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