Noted plagiarist Sen. Rand Paul wrote in an editorial today about the need to demilitarize the police. However, this wasn’t Paul’s own idea. Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson first wrote about his legislation in March.
Rand Paul wrote for Time:
Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.
The militarization of our law enforcement is due to an unprecedented expansion of government power in this realm. It is one thing for federal officials to work in conjunction with local authorities to reduce or solve crime. It is quite another for them to subsidize it.
In March of this year, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) wrote in USA Today:
This is why Rep. Johnson plans to introduce legislation to reform the 1033 program before America’s main streets and civilian police militarize further. The program currently lacks serious oversight and accountability, and it needs some parameters put in place to define what is appropriate. The legislation will ban MRAPs, other armored personnel carriers, drones, assault weapons and aircraft. Finally, the legislation will ensure that the Department of Defense undertakes an annual accounting of what’s been transferred, by whom and to whom to prevent military items from being auctioned on eBay or sold to friends.
Militarizing America’s main streets won’t make us any safer, just more fearful and more reticent. Before another small town’s police force gets a $700,000 gift from the Defense Department that it can’t maintain or manage, it behooves us to press pause on Pentagon’s 1033 program and revisit the merits of a militarized America. And do it now before Kankakee looks like Kabul or Boise looks like Baghdad.
When the situation in Ferguson, MO erupted, Rand Paul picked up Rep. Johnson’s idea and made it his own. Rep. Johnson announced today that he will be introducing his legislation. As Johnson pointed out in his article, the problem is that the Pentagon loves to give the surplus equipment to local law enforcement because it allows them to ask for more new equipment in next year’s budget.
The problem isn’t the Republicans’ favorite vague boogeyman “big government.” The real issue is their favorite form of welfare in disguise, which is military spending. Notice that Sen. Paul never once called out the Military Industrial Complex that is fueling this program. He can’t risk alienating Republican primary voters by looking like he is against a big red state job creator.
Democrats and liberals should not fall for Rand Paul’s act. The next original idea Sen. Paul has will be his first. The reason so many on the left like the idea of demilitarizing the police is because it first came from one of their own, Rep. Hank Johnson.