An Iraq War veteran says small town cops like the police force in Ferguson, Mo., carry better weaponry and armor than he did in combat.
“Police in Ferguson have the kind of armor and weaponry that my men and I would have envied in the performance of our duties in an actual combat zone,” Rafael Noboa y Rivera wrote in an op-ed published by BillMoyers.com.
Noboa y Rivera served in the Army for seven years and was deployed in Iraq from 2003 to 2004.
“Let me repeat that: the police in Ferguson have better armor and weaponry than my men and I did in the middle of a war,” he wrote. “And Ferguson isn’t alone — police departments across the US are armed for war.”
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He says that “gear and weaponry” is more than tools and clothing.
“They’re meant to accomplish certain tasks, and they will elicit certain responses from the people who encounter them,” he said. “When my men and I donned our helmets and body armor, and carried our weapons out on patrol, we were at war. Our gear wasn’t just protective, it was meant to be downright unwelcoming. That was the point — it’s combat gear, not a costume you wear to look ‘tactical.’”
But he argues that countless hours of training in the military prepares soldiers for using those tools and holding a position. That is what’s missing in small town police departments, he says.
“Military discipline hones you to a point where you can acknowledge fear, yet not give in to it. That’s the difference between taking control of a dangerous situation — and lessening tensions; or losing control of the situation, and creating an even bigger disaster,” he explains.
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He condemned the police response to Ferguson protestors: “I look at the police in Ferguson, and all I can do is shake my head. If the primary goal of the police was to win the trust of local citizens in order to calm the roiling waters caused by the murder of Mike Brown, then they have utterly failed in accomplishing that goal.”
Ferguson, with a population of 21,135 people, has only 40 robberies per year, The Guardian reported.
Kara Dansky of the ACLU told The Guardian that “the unnecessary use of paramilitary policing tactics tends to escalate the risk of violence to both civilians and officers.”
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Greg Matthews