Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Musings: From Ferguson to Kauai

As protests continue in the wake the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., a debate is emerging on whether the growing militarization of the nation's police is appropriate, much less warranted.

Locally, a friend who recently visited Scotland, England and Ireland, where the police traditionally haven't carried guns, noted:

In fact, there was a small item in one of the local papers about an inquiry into the number of Scottish police now carrying guns on routine patrol and how people were bothered by it, they didn't want to see their Americanization of their police.

A New York Times guest commentary on the M-16s,camouflage uniforms and armored tanks used by police in Ferguson, a town of 21,000 citizens, revealed:

Ferguson’s police force got equipped this way thanks to the Pentagon, and it’s happening all over the country. The Department of Defense provides military-grade weapons and equipment to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program, enacted by Congress in 1997 to expand the practice of dispensing extra military gear. Due to the defense industry’s bloated contracts, there is a huge surplus. To date, the Pentagon has donated military equipment worth more than $4 billion to local law enforcement agencies. And the giving goes on, to police forces in all 50 states in the union.

Whereas the Department of Defense hands over weapons directly, the Department of Homeland Security provides funding for arms. It has distributed more than $34 billion through “terrorism grants,” enabling local police departments to acquire such absurd items as a surveillance drone and an Army tank.

For a police department like Ferguson’s, the path to becoming a paramilitary force is a short one. After loading up with free military gear, it is no surprise that law enforcement agents want to use it. In fact, the 1033 program’s regulations require that the police use what they receive within one year.

In the absence of extreme violence or actual terrorist threat, what happens — as the American Civil Liberties Union has documented — is that the equipment and weapons are used by SWAT teams in routine situations, such as low-level drug raids or the execution of search warrants. As Ferguson shows, this militarizing of routine police work exacerbates tensions and increases the likelihood of disorder. This, in turn, appears to justify a militarized police response, and so the cycle continues.

Kauai attorney Dan Hempey, who has been speaking out against the growing militarization of police for years, sent me a link to the ACLU report. It found that these military arsenals are used primarily in the “War on Drugs,” and disproportionately among people of color.

Among its other findings:

SWAT raids are undoubtedly violent events: numerous (often 20 or more) officers armed with assault rifles and grenades approach a home, break down doors and windows (often causing property damage), and scream for the people inside to get on the floor (often pointing their guns at them). During the course of this investigation, the ACLU determined that SWAT deployments often and unnecessarily entailed the use of violent tactics and equipment, including Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), and that the use of these tactics and equipment often increased the risk of property damage and bodily harm.

Of the incidents studied in which SWAT was deployed to search for drugs in a person’s home, the SWAT teams either forced or probably forced entry into a person’s home using a battering ram or other breaching device 65 percent of the time. In some instances, the use of violent tactics and equipment caused property damage, injury, and/or death.

So how is this playing out on Kauai, aside from the SWAT team shooting death of Dickie Louis on his rooftop, which prompted a lawsuit against the county? 

I contacted Police Chief Darryl Perry, who is running for County Council, to ask what sorts of things the department had purchased with the Homeland Security funding. His reply:

Incident Command Vehicle for critical incidents like hurricanes, and tsunamis, to long term search and rescue situations; new P25 compliant portable radios, mobile computers for our patrol officers, Radiological-Biological-Chemical protective gear, body armor (bullet resistant vests), and our new Armored Rescue Vehicle for use in hostage situations involving an armed suspect. The ARV will also be deployed for Active Shooter situations which I pray won't ever happen here on Kauai.

We (KPD) also contributed a portion of our allotment so that KFD [Kauai Fire Department] could get the helicopter which is used frequently to rescue our visitors and locals.

Though much of it sounds warm and friendly — disaster response, search-and-rescue — it can be used for much less benign purposes at KPD's discretion. As the ACLU noted:

Local police departments should develop their own internal policies calling for appropriate restraints on the use of SWAT and should avoid all training programs that encourage a “warrior” mindset.

Finally, the public has a right to know how law enforcement agencies are policing its communities and spending its tax dollars. The militarization of American policing has occurred with almost no oversight, and it is time to shine a bright light on the policies, practices, and weaponry that have turned too many of our neighborhoods into war zones.

Problem is, it's not that easy to obtain the info. 

In March 2012, when KPD was buying Tasers, I made a public records request for a copy of the department's policies regarding Use of Force and Electronic Control Devices (ECD). The document I received was heavily redacted, prompting me to file an appeal with the Office of Information Purposes. 

Though it took nearly two years for my request to work its way through the system, I did receive another copy of the document, with fewer redactions that the original. Some of it is protected under a court ruling that determined details of police policies that might "benefit those attempting to violate the law and avoid detection" should not be released. 

Still, information is missing on when an ECD should not be used, other than it should not be used to punish an individual, or if a person is “displaying resistance not rising to the level of an immediate threat to the officer(s) or another person.” Nor should it be used against a person by more than one officer at the same time, "unless it's justified and articulated" in various report forms.

No information is included on when or how KPD should use its Homeland Security gear. 

As the nation, and Congress, review the trend of sending military gear to small town police departments, It seems time for the Kauai community to have a discussion on what level of militarization and force is appropriate for the local cops before we have an incident, or an accident, another death and the inevitable lawsuit.


Anonymous said...

I have watched 2 occasions when KPD was confronted by a violent thief or trespasser. KPD used amazing constraint when faced with extreme hostile and violent behavior.
In my opinion, they were too kind. Am ordinary citizen would have punched the criminals and beaten them to a pulp. KPD were by the book. I was amazed.
Now if they just would not write so many tickets for tiny infractions.
KPD is the best.I don't know Chief Perry, but he is getting my vote, because he leads these good guys.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the subjects that brings heavy emotions on both sides. I don't want a police state but I do want protection from those that are bent on preying on their neighbors for personal gain and worse. It's a delicate balance and I don't think disarming officers is a solution. We have extremely violent gangs in America, mentally ill and those that simply don't have a moral compass. Police are tasked with dealing with the worst of the worst when they're at their worst. Also, police are human beings and will periodically make bad choices. Unfortunately, that can and does result in death. If I could, I would remove guns entirely. As long as the very bad guys have them, I want police and citizens to have a meaningful way to protect themselves and their families from the evil that lurks.

Anonymous said...

Re Dawson- Thank Goodness we have critical and rational thinkers like Dawson to condemn all police officers because of the words of one man.
That is like saying all Kauai residents are nincompoops
because one citizen, Dawson is a nincompoop. Guaranz Ball Bearenz, Dawson votes for da Hoos and Jackpot Bynum.
Nincompoop- a stupid or foolish person.

Anonymous said...

Good timing. Just today, "Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is calling for demilitarizing of American police."

"It is alarming to see small towns of America encroached upon with assault weapons, militarized vehicles, tear gas, and other military gear intended for use against enemy combatants, not against our own citizens,” added Congresswoman Gabbard. “Our local police forces are meant to be serving and protecting the people in our local communities—not treating them as the enemy. Historically, Americans have joined law enforcement because of their desire to serve and protect their communities—not play soldiers. However, this could change with the increased militarization of our police.

Dawson said...

"Re Dawson- Thank Goodness we have critical and rational thinkers like Dawson to condemn all police officers because of the words of one man."

Re rationality - You shouldn't make claim to it if you believe that American police culture hasn't long been infused with a warrior mindset -- specifically, a Brotherhood of Us Against Them, Warriors Under Siege mindset.

Re critical thinking - You shouldn't make claim to it if you believe that condemning police culture means condemning all police officers.

Anonymous said...

Kauai police officers are not like Sunil Dutta. He's a fucking asshole and is the reason people in LA hate cops.

Anonymous said...

Dawson said...

"So, 'Do what I say or I will hurt/kill you?' How does that even remotely correspond with 'To Serve and Protect?'" Carter Gaddis wrote on Twitter, citing the police motto....

This is correct and this is what federal, state, local, and military police train you. You will have your day in court if you just shut your mouth and make a mental note of the whole incident. Once you are able to write down everything you observed then you sign date and report it. If not then you'll end up like Brown, Dickie, and that kid at nawiliwili.

Re Dawson- Thank Goodness we have critical and rational thinkers like Dawson to condemn all police officers because of the words of one man.
That is like saying all Kauai residents are nincompoops
because one citizen, Dawson is a nincompoop. Guaranz Ball Bearenz, Dawson votes for da Hoos and Jackpot Bynum.
Nincompoop- a stupid or foolish person.

This has to be a Bozo. You know them clowns the bozos.

Anonymous said...

Branding all cops as bad shows your ignorance. Every occupation has good/bad. Compare that to the protestors and the associated property damage/looting. I guess all protestors are bad then.

Anonymous said...

The US has the highest rate of police killing citizens of any rich country.

If you look at it per capita. Kauai has one of the highest rates of police killing people in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

People who fear the police are usually doing wrong, did wrong, or paranoid. Other ave had a "bad experience" with law enforcement. Which means they broke the law and didn't get the break they thought they should or let their mouth run too much and had their attitude adjusted by the cops. And of course they are the few that have nothing better to do, want their moment in the sun, and tend to be abrasive with everything in their life. The "Buzzkills" of the world, miserable human beings that do nothing but bring everyone around them down.

Not me, I go through life without ever thinking of the Police. I don't care if they're speeding, talking on the phone, taking a break, giving tickets to make a quota or banging your girlfriend. I live within the law and have nothing to fear but criminals that would like to cause me harm or steal from me. If I am victimized, then I enjoy the fact that I can report it to the Police. They may solve the crime or not, but it really is on me to protect myself from becoming a victim. Take responsibility for yourself and realize that life is not fair. Your assumption that you entitled to anything is a horrible handicap. Free yourself to appreciate the world a whole lot more by looking at the positive and not the negative. Zakly

Anonymous said...

Thank you to Mr. Hempey for that ACLU report.
It is exhaustive and clearly/graphically laid out.
ACLU did an incredible job on that.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who doesnʻt go through life thinking about what the police are capable of doing to you and your family for doing absolutely nothing - is living either in a coma, lala land or a diseased sense of arrogance.

I sleep with my pants on in case they hit the wrong house and roust me in the middle of the night. Even though this is Kauai, I lock the doors to give myself a 1-2 minute lead in case its them.

Did you read what I just wrote? Did anyone find it ironic that I lock my doors, not to keep burglars out BUT TO KEEP THE POLICE OUT?

I am a law abiding citizen but I have a criminal record for some petty things when I was a young adult and I know how the police work. They have burned the fear into me.

If you think youʻre better than that and have nothing to worry about, I hope I stumble upon your experience in the news when it finally happens to you.

Anonymous said...

Police are the most dangerous gang in the neighborhood. Whenever the get caught engaging in illegal activity and the thin blue line breaks they say "a few bad apples" but perhaps the whole barrel is rotten.

Anonymous said...

5:51 pm a big mahalo for confirming Zakly what I wrote:
1. Paranoid
2. Has history with Police
3. Involved in criminal activity
4. Condemns me for thinking differently
5. Buzzkill
6. Prepares for anticipated "wrong house" entry by police. More like it's the right house

Anonymous said...

Yes, 7:33 AM, I expected that kind judgementalism which usually comes from someone with incredibly deep skeletons in their closet; but is unable to empathize with other realities such as what I shared, because perhaps to you those skeletons are not what you consider wrongdoing.
For instance, I would bet youʻve helped yourself to children or some other sordid engagement (even wanting to counts) but you have no awareness that it was wrong.

Easy to throw around words like ʻparanoiaʻ itʻs the ʻeither youʻre with us or against usʻ mentality learned from the moron that stole the US White House: followers that need to be told how to think.

You put "has history with police". You donʻt have ANY? What a bore you must be or a crook working in the system (cop?).
I am not involved in criminal activity. I stated that but I guess you read what you want.

The rest of your ad hominem attacks I wonʻt even bother with.

Anonymous said...

8:47am none of it was an attack. it was a simple mahalo or thank you for showing the rest of the readers how delusional folks like you can be. thanks again for your new post and reconfirming what we already knew

PLEASE go for the Trifecta!!!

Anonymous said...

No need to have this long blog anymore, Joan, I guess this guy @3:20 PM can speak for everyone.

Got to say though, it does sound like something irking him beneath the surface.

Dawson said...

Anonymous on August 21 at 8:35 AM said:

"People who fear the police are usually doing wrong, did wrong, or paranoid. Other ave had a "bad experience" with law enforcement. Which means they broke the law and didn't get the break they thought they should or let their mouth run too much and had their attitude adjusted by the cops...."

It's doubtful the poster would be so smug if he or one of his loved ones had had their "attitude adjusted" by these cops:


(CNN) -- A Missouri police officer involved in maintaining security in troubled Ferguson was put on administrative leave Friday after a video surfaced showing him railing about the Supreme Court, Muslims, and his past -- and perhaps, he said, his future -- as "a killer."

The officer, Dan Page of the St. Louis County Police Department... frequently references violence, including nine combat tours in the Army, during which he did "my fair share of killing."

Speaking about Muslims, he says pointedly: "They will kill you." On domestic disputes, he opines: "You don't like each other that much, just kill each other and get it over with. Problem solved. Get it done." On urban violence, he predicts that "when the inner cities start to ignite, people are going to start killing people they don't like."

And lastly, Page says, "I personally believe the Lord Jesus Christ is my savior, but I'm also a killer. I've killed a lot and, if I need to, I will kill a whole bunch more."

"If you don't want to get killed, don't show up in front of me."...


(L.A. Times) -- The California Highway Patrol announced Wednesday that one of its officers faces “potentially serious charges” for repeatedly punching a woman in the head along the 10 Freeway in July, an incident that was caught on video and posted to YouTube, causing widespread outrage.

In addition to turning its criminal investigation over to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office for review, the CHP also said that the officer, Daniel Andrew, had been moved from desk duty to administrative time off.

Andrew was captured on video stopping 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock -- who was walking on the side of the 10 Freeway at the La Brea Avenue exit on July 1 -- then taking her to the ground, straddling her while she was on her back and punching her repeatedly in the head....

Full stories at and

Anonymous said...

Mahalo, Dawson.
Facts prevail.