Robots, facial recognition, and drones. These are the technologically advanced tools that used to belong to the military, but are now commonplace in local police departments.
As The New American has reported, police departments and sheriff’s offices around the country every day look less like peace officers and more like warfighters.
Using threats of terrorism as a pretext, police are buying (or receiving in free grants) tools developed for the armed forces and using them to carry out police raids or even to serve a simple warrant.
Unfortunately, it seems that if police departments have these million-dollar vehicles, weapons, and software, they will use them.
Jim Fitzgerald worked for eight years as a vice and narcotics squad detective in Newark, New Jersey, before joining the staff of The John Birch Society. He is point man for the conservative organization’s “Support Your Local Police” initiative.
In an interview with The New American, Fitzgerald said there is “virtually no use” for the military-grade equipment being bought by local law enforcement with DHS grant money.
“The only reason to have this equipment is to use it,” Fitzgerald said, and it is likely it would be used against local citizens who have risen up and created some sort of civil disorder.
The assault, then, on civil liberties is coming not just from Capitol Hill, but from police precincts down the street.
The impoverished city of Oakland is spending more than $10 million on a “Domain Awareness Center” surveillance hub for its cops, and cameras that track every license plate they see. Baltimore and NYC track license plates, too. Meanwhile, according to the LA Times, “Unmanned aircraft from an Air Force base in North Dakota help local police with surveillance,” and Motherboard reports: The Border Patrol’s fleet of Predator drones were loaned out 248 times in 2012, to “unnamed sheriff’s departments, the Department of Defense, the DEA, the Texas Rangers, and even the Bureaus of Land Management and Indian Affairs.”
From license plate readers to facial recognition software, from surveillance cameras to cellphone signal trackers, the Department of Homeland Security is providing police with all the gadgets, hardware, and software necessary to keep everybody under surveillance, without the targeted public ever realizing that it’s the Capitol, not the cops, that are behind the monitoring.
Local police who participate in the program will have access to a shockingly broad array of personal information of citizens. Facial recognition technology, license plate readers, and stop light camera video feeds will all be funneled to a Regional Operations Intelligence Center where FBI, police, and DHS agents can watch the live feeds.
The threat has been creeping up on us for a while now.
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Photo of team of police and SWAT robot in Sanford, Maine: AP Images