Published On: Wed, Jun 25th, 2014

Mérida Municipal Police celebrates 11th Anniversary this month

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A few years ago, some cops were known as “peace officers” and were counted on to uphold domestic laws, detect and investigate crimes, and be a helpful, non-threatening presence in communities throughout the United States of America. But now, the friendlies have largely been transformed into militarized forces, literally armed with and garbed in war gear and indoctrinated in military psychology, rather than the ethic of community policing.

From 1776 forward, Americans have wisely opposed having soldiers do police work in the U.S., but in recent years, Pentagon chiefs have teamed up with police chiefs to circumvent that prohibition. How? Simply by militarizing police departments.

Twenty years ago, Congress created the military transfer program, providing federal grants so chiefs of police and sheriffs could buy surplus firepower from the Pentagon. Through those grants, in a stunningly short time, police forces all over America have become high-octane, macho-military units, possessing a large armory of Pentagon freebies ranging from 30-ton tanks to rifle silencers. For ordinary police work, they’ve gone from peacekeeping beats to way over-the-top SWAT team aggression that’s unleashed on the citizenry tens of thousands of times a year. For example, a gung-ho Florida SWAT team raided area barbershops in 2010 to stop the horror of “barbering without a license.” And masked police in Louisiana launched a military raid on a nightclub in order to perform a liquor-law inspection. These were barbers and bartenders, not al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Police officers (LONG BEACH, N.Y.)

Police officers (LONG BEACH, N.Y.)

Militarization is a dangerous and ultimately deadly perversion of the honorable purpose of policing — and it is out of control. The New York Times notes that 38 states have received silencers to use in surreptitious raids. A sheriff in a North Dakota rural county with only 11,000 people told a Times reporter that he saw no need for silencers. When it was pointed out that his department had received 40 of them from the Pentagon, he was clearly baffled, saying: “I don’t recall approving them.”

From Salinas, California, to Ohio State University, the Pentagon has been shipping massive amounts of surplus war equipment to our local gendarmes. This reflects a fundamental rewiring of the mindset now guiding neighborhood policing. Police chiefs today commonly send out squads brandishing heavy arms and garbed in riot gear for peaceful situations. Recruiting videos now feature high-adrenaline clips of SWAT-team officers dressed in black, hurling flash grenades into a home, and then storming the house, firing automatic weapons. Who wants anyone recruited by that video working their neighborhood?

As a city councilman in rural Wisconsin commented when told his police were getting a 9-foot-tall armored vehicle: “Somebody has to be the first to say, ‘Why are we doing this?'” The New York Times reports that the town’s police chief responded that, “There’s always a possibility of violence.” Really? Who threatens us with such mayhem that every burg needs a war-zone armory and a commando mentality?

Astonishingly, a sheriff’s spokesman in suburban Indianapolis offered this answer: “The sheriff’s department needed a mine-resistant armored vehicle”, he explained, to defend itself against U.S. veterans returning from the Afghanistan war. War veterans, he said, “have the ability and knowledge to build (homemade bombs) and to defeat law enforcement techniques.”

That way of thinking is a clear indicator of the altered mindset of police chiefs and trainers.

Canadian Police during a raid

Canadian Police during a raid

While here in Mérida, Yucatán, the situation is different, the Municipal Police celebrated their 11th anniversary of operations in the month of June. The Municipal Police Force started operations on 2003, with 90 officers, and currently has 400 members, in addition to weapons and vehicles.

policia-merida-11-aniversario

Mayor Renán Barrera Concha made a recognition to their commitment to serve the Yucatecan society, and highlighted the success of the DARE program to prevent substance use. The DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program, that is an international education program created in the US that seeks to prevent use of drugs by minors;  provides a valuable service to the community because it basically educates and teaches strong civic values to children and teenagers in order to keep them away from drugs.

DARE program in Mérida, Yucatán

DARE program in Mérida, Yucatán

Barrera Concha also referred to other services, such as the Bycicle Police, and the Paramedics, who can now handle an emergency situation with a very fast response time ( 5 minutes average).

The Mayor made a tribute to the work of the Special Anti-Violence Unit and Canine Squadron, which recently began operations; and awarded 52 agents for their 10 years of labor.

The director of the Municipal Police, Commander Mario Arturo Romero Escalante said that the corporation has a canine unit for the first time, and it has been essential for the specialized work of detection and protection.

Mérida Police Officers

Mérida Police Officers

 

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