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Thursday, June 20
The Indiana Daily Student

Demilitarizing Indiana police

The events in Ferguson, Mo., surrounding the death of Michael Brown have set off a firestorm of backlash, leading many to question the tactics of various police forces on a larger level.

For many in Indiana, we feel removed from the national scandal simply because we do not often see uprisings in our city streets, or because we’re starting classes and textbooks are $600 and that’s a little more immediate, to say the least.

But as national events have played out, at least eight Indiana counties have acquired Mine-Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles, according to the Indianapolis Star.

When I first heard that Indiana was outfitting itself with what were essentially tanks, I had to ask why.

Hoosiers are not exactly violent.

Outfitting local police forces with old military equipment is apparently a decades-old strategy.

Police forces can and have received military-grade body armor, mine-resistant trucks, silencers and automatic rifles. No one thought anything of it.

But as tanks rolled through Ferguson’s streets and guns were pointed at protesters and bystanders alike, the nation was suddenly able to see the danger in arming local police forces with big military-grade weapons.

Now, President Barack Obama has ordered a comprehensive White House review of military suppliers to police.

The review will look into whether or not the government and armed forces should continue outfitting police. It will also look into whether or not local authorities have sufficient training.

Training is perhaps the most important point, for me, on this review.

Several military veterans have been incredibly vocal on social media about the obvious lack of training the Ferguson police have received.

These instances might also be contributing factors as to the escalating violence in the streets.

I want my police officers to be able to protect themselves, but we can’t hand someone a machine gun and tell them that if they were trained for a pistol, it’s the same.

Now, local Indiana police forces are receiving military-grade weaponry. We don’t know if they are properly trained, and we don’t know if they understand how to appropriately handle a military machine gun.

We need to be able to trust that when there is a violent situation, riot, uprising, mass shooting or anything else that puts civilians in harm’s way, our police forces will approach the situation with care, not guns — military-grade guns at that.

Civilians are not soldiers.

We need to take a serious look at the militarization of our police forces, of how good an idea it is to give a small, local force weaponry intended for our military.

In Indiana and in Bloomington, we might feel as if there is little we can do.

But we can stand up to protect ourselves against untrained and violent authorities. We can demand intense training for specialized forces and weaponry that local authorities receive.

We might be too far removed to help Ferguson or its tragedy. But we can learn from it.

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