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Ferguson, OffNow and Roadblocks Toward Much Needed Reform

The excessive use of force in Ferguson focused attention on the danger of police militarization. But there is another consequence that doesn’t show up on gritty streets of any-town USA. To understand it, you need to roam the clean safe halls of America’s state capitols. There you will see that the impact of police militarization on the legislative process.

Many people found themselves on the receiving end of aggressive police behavior long before Ferguson shined the media spotlight on the issue. Stories of police excessive force and the unnecessary use of militarized tactics by law enforcement appear in the media almost daily.

But one positive coming out of the events in Ferguson is that many more Americans now understand the consequences of the militarization of local law enforcement pushed by the federal government.

But there is another impact hidden from the cameras: the impact of police militarization and local/federal partnerships on the legislative process. The police lobby works diligently to stop important reforms to protect privacy and basic civil liberties. The law enforcement lobby fights tooth-and-nail at every turn to stop bills that protect privacy and ban warrantless surveillance.

Take California, for example. Just a couple weeks ago, SB828, a bill that would have created a mechanism for the state to turn off all resources to any federal agency engaged in warrantless mass surveillance, was rendered essentially worthless due to¬† what inside sources tell us was the “heavy hand of the California Sheriffs Association.”

The CSA wields significant power as a lobbying organization, ensuring that its members continue to enjoy all of the federal toys available to them. With billions of dollars of military hardware coming to them via DOD’s 1033 program, banning cooperation with the federal government is something the organization strongly opposes.

OffNow faced similar hurdles in other states as well. Law enforcement is one of the leading proponents and benefactors of the unconstitutional police state that is rapidly enveloping America.

We see the same phenomenon when it comes to efforts to place parameters around the use of drones. Again, law enforcement organizations are the number one opponent of restrictions on the use of drones for surveillance without a warrant, dwarfing even drone manufacturer Boeing. In Washington State, California, Indiana, and almost every other state a bill like this has been introduced, law enforcement rushed in to lead the opposition.

There are other institutional factors working against privacy advocates as well. Lobbyist groups such as the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), represnting1 ,600 different SWAT teams throughout the country, hide behind the always convenient terror threat argument to fight sensible reforms. These lobbyists claim that citizens have nothing to worry about and swear police won’t abuse their power, but that is a difficult argument to make considering the madness in Ferguson and its potential to spread to more cities.

The root of this danger comes from federal and state collusion.

State and local law enforcement no longer view the public as those they serve and protect. Instead, they view themselves as soldiers in federal wars on terror and drugs, with the feds serving as their ultimate masters. Police officers are being trained indoctrinated to think we are living in a war zone and everyone is a terrorist in large part due to federal influence. This creates a toxic situation that negatively impacts public safety. We simply cannot maintain a free and prosperous society with centralized power jeopardizing the integrity and independence of our local and state police forces.

And because people have a positive view of law enforcement, it is often very difficult for legislators to take a stand against them when they release a public statements claiming that a bill would hurt their ability to safeguard the public. This has been the biggest impediment in getting our important legislation passed.

We must always remember to follow the money and the power. As Ferguson shows, there is a lot of money and power flowing to law enforcement organizations on both the state and local levels. This insidious trickle down effect needlessly and unjustly facilitates the influence of Washington D.C. into your community. Those same law enforcement groups receiving the federal cash and goodies are quite possibly doing the most damage to any effort to stop the effects of mass surveillance.

Although they may be highly revered and can serve a great purpose in protecting the public safety, we must question the motives of law enforcement. Because when the police become militarized and disconnected from the needs of the people whom they should be serving, catastrophic results can ensue. The people in Ferguson are learning that the hard way. We must fight for what’s right even if it ruffles the feathers of Sheriff’s Organizations and Police Unions.

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