Local Cops Ready for War With Homeland Security-Funded Military Weapons
A decade of billions in spending in the name of homeland security has armed local police departments with military-style equipment and a new commando mentality. But has it gone too far? Andrew Becker and G.W. Schulz of the Center for Investigative Reporting report.
Dec 21, 2011
Nestled amid plains so flat the locals joke you can watch your dog run away for miles, Fargo treasures its placid lifestyle, seldom pierced by the mayhem and violence common in other urban communities. North Dakota’s largest city has averaged fewer than two homicides a year since 2005, and there’s not been a single international terrorism prosecution in the last decade.
But that hasn’t stopped authorities in Fargo and its surrounding county from going on an $8 million buying spree to arm police officers with the sort of gear once reserved only for soldiers fighting foreign wars.
Every city squad car is equipped today with a military-style assault rifle, and officers can don Kevlar helmets able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition. And for that epic confrontation—if it ever occurs—officers can now summon a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. For now, though, the menacing truck is used mostly for training and appearances at the annual city picnic, where it’s been parked near the children’s bounce house.
“Most people are so fascinated by it, because nothing happens here,” says Carol Archbold, a Fargo resident and criminal justice professor at North Dakota State University. “There’s no terrorism here.”