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The ongoing racial upheaval in Ferguson, Missouri, brought unflattering attention to the federal program in which the Pentagon donates surplus equipment to local police departments that request it. As I commented in an earlier post, the Saint Louis County Police "moved into Ferguson to restore order with armored vehicles, tear gas, water cannons, camouflage, and assault rifles."
After the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson cop brought demonstrators into the streets, it was observed that the county police who responded were better armed for combat than the U.S. troops patrolling Baghdad.
"This Is The Terrifying Result Of The Militarization Of Police," was the headline over a story posted by Business Insider. Writer Paul Szoldra, an ex-marine, noted that that county police "have short-barreled 5.56-mm rifles based on the military M4 carbine, with scopes that can accurately hit a target out to 500 meters. On their side they carry pistols. On their front, over their body armor, they carry at least four to six extra magazines, loaded with 30 rounds each. . . . They stand in front of a massive uparmored truck called a Bearcat, similar in look to a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or as the troops who rode in them call it, the MRAP."
Not menacing enough to mention were the two helicopters the Pentagon turned over to the county in 2008. The choppers had free run of the skies above Ferguson, which were otherwise sealed off by the FAA.
The troubles in Ferguson continue, but isn't it time for a little perspective? I just received an important alumni note from Kirkwood High School, educational hub of my genteel home town a mere 12 miles southwest of Ferguson. It reads:
On Saturday, September 27, on E.L. Lyons Memorial Stadium Field at Kirkwood High School (KHS), 1,132 people successfully patted their heads and rubbed their bellies at the same time for 60-seconds. This accomplishment should get the participants in to the Guinness Book of World Records. Students at Howard of Effingham School in the United Kingdom currently hold the record. The school had 1,093 students complete the attempt on March 18, 2011. The Kirkwood School District (KSD) has submitted the evidence to the Guinness World Record offices. KSD is awaiting certification of the results and will find out in approximately 8-12 weeks the outcome.
Participants completed the Guinness World Record attempt and them transitioned into a human "1-5-0" human formation. The St. Louis County Police helicopter flew over the field and a photographer took aerial photos.
Props to the county police, and a lesson learned. When the public is willing to do something constructive for a change—and, yes, doing it in a wealthy white suburb doesn't hurt—they turn into teddy bears.