ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Thin Blue Line, and its Alarming Shades of Green. Part 1

Updated on July 25, 2016

Here to protect and serve, but who? and against what?

Why does the sheriff in my little town need an MRAP? Why does the nearby state police barracks (yes, its called a barracks) need an APC with a mounted machine gun? Why do they have more fully automatic rifles than employees? Why do they carry combat shotguns and flashbang grenades on patrol? Why do they turn out in full riot gear for political rallies and protests? Why does a town in rural Pennsylvania need equipment that was designed for use in occupying warzones in Afghanistan and Iraq? "Just in case" is the answer you see small town sheriffs and chiefs of police giving all over the country, but just in case of what? Don't we have the National Guard "just in case" there's a massive violent uprising somewhere on our soil? What the hell is going on?

The 1033 program, part of the 1997 NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), gave local police forces like the one in my little town access to our Armed Forces' surplus equipment. It is the legal grounds for communities like mine to spend tax dollars on equipment which was originally designed for the express purpose of occupying enemy territory. Since it was passed, this program has been used to transfer more than five billion dollars worth of equipment; weapons and armor, vehicles and aircraft, to local police agencies. In 2015, President Obama issued an Executive Order limiting the types of equipment that would be made available. Under this order, combat aircraft, 'tracked' vehicles (like tanks), grenade launchers and bayonets would no longer be part of the exchange, but due to recent turmoil the administration has considered lifting these restrictions.

So lets get this straight, police brutality has driven people to the point of randomly murdering police and the response is to give them better means to commit acts of brutality? I'm not in law enforcement, and I'm not a politician, but that seems counterintuitive to me. Granted this is a multi-faceted issue, and of course we want our law enforcement officials to be able to deal with threats, but in what case can you imagine a local police force needing an M1A1 Abrams tank? Under what circumstances would a town cop need a fully automatic assault rifle with drum magazines holding 200+ rounds and an M203 40mm high-explosive grenade launcher attached? Am I missing something?

Enough about the ordinance for a minute. You would think there was an ungodly hellstorm of rampant violence sweeping the nation if our police need this stuff to begin with, right? Well, that's not exactly the case. According to FBI crime statistics, violent crime (murder, rape, assault, kidnapping, etc) is occurring at the lowest rates since WWII for several years running, and the number of police KIA has been on a steady decline for twenty years, even including the recent rash of violence against police despite what you may have heard from Donald Trump during his RNC nomination acceptance speech. Now, on the flipside of this, Police involved shootings are at a 40 year high according to "The Guardian's the Counted". The FBI incredibly does not require local police agencies to report police shootings to any national database. Infact, there is no official national database compiling statistics on these types of incidents, so we're left to rely on statistics that are very likely omitting a good number of them. Police would have you believe there's a "war on cops", but if there's a war on involving the police, the information available suggests they're winning by a very wide margin.

According to the FBI database, 41 police officers were "feloniously killed" in the line of duty in 2015, down from 51 the previous year in keeping with a steady decline (with exceptions) for more than twenty years. However, last year alone and even with only self-reporting by police agencies to rely on, 986 people we're killed by the police in 2015, a full third of whom were later determined to be unarmed and/or mentally ill. These statistics are just a google search away, yet somehow there seems to be a debate as to whether or not the police are often too quick to escalate already volatile situations to fatal violence.

This is likely a result of a near complete lack of accountability for erroneous or excessive use of force by cops. Of the thousands of police involved shooting since 2005 (yes, thousands) in which a criminal complaint was filed by the family of the victim, as of April '15 (see the Washington Post) only 54 officers had actually been charged, even fewer convicted. This is likely due to the fact that there is no independent investigation when these incidents occur. Departments involved in shootings are not just allowed, but required to investigate their own officers. To a layman like myself, this seems a clear conflict of interest and I've heard no argument to dissuade me of this opinion. I've only mentioned shootings too, there are an unbelievable number of complaints of excessive force, tens of thousands, every year which result in zero criminal action against the accused officer, despite that in many cases officers have multiple, in some cases dozens of complaints against them. During these internal investigations officers are often placed on paid administrative leave or given different assignments. If when you made a mistake at work the penalty was paid vacation or a lighter workload, would you make any effort to improve your performance?

Tomorrow I will publish, at the editor's pleasure, part two of this article, which will focus on the concept of the warrior cop, lauded by police as empowering, but resulting in widespread fear of and violence against them. Join me then, and thanks for reading.

How do you feel about the police?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Matt Wardell profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Wardell 

      2 years ago

      I assume you mean the Eric Frein case, Kyleigh... and it was a terrible incident, no doubt. But I don't see how having a tank or grenade launchers in the armory would've prevented it. In fact, he's supposed to have been motivated by this very issue... though there are a hundred stories, among them that one of the officers (sorry, troopers...) shot in the incident was sleeping with his brother-in-law's wife and the guy killed himself over it. That all sound a little farfetched to me personally though, my tendency is to believe Frein was just a nut and would've used any excuse to kill eventually

      it also bears mentioning that to put their lives on the line is part of the police oath of office, they choose to put themselves on the front line... to shoot/kill preemptively as often as they do because they "feared for their lives" suggests to me that they are in no way interested in fulfilling that part of their oath... Imagine if fire fighters refused to enter burning buildings to save people because it was scary, its part of the job though, if you don't wanna do it, don't sign up

      but that's also got a lot to do with their training... if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail... more about that in part 2 tomorrow... hope you'll come back and read, thanks for your interest :D

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Why do officers even need guns in small towns? What about rubber bullets and non lethal force? I get that they run that risk every day of "I might get shot and killed today on the job" but they're people, just like you and me. If someone who is unarmed and no threat to anyone gets shot and KILLED why wouldn't that be considered a criminal action, despite what kind of uniform the assailant was wearing at the time. It does happen too much for it to be ignored.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Very well written. My only concern is that you seem to forget that at that small police barracks police were attacked not too long ago- killed just trying to go home to their families.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)