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The nation was shocked when police in Ferguson Missouri faced protestors in a military armored vehicle.  I was reminded of Tiananmen Square.  While not a tank, the protestors perceived the war machine as the equivalent of one.  The action has raised questions about a federal program that enables state and local police departments to acquire surplus military gear such as Bear Cat Armored Personnel Carriers and grenade launchers.  The militarization of police reaches absurd disproportion when a Florida town of 2,500 residents acquires a Bear Cat.  Is a terrorist attack likely in such a small town? The police war mentality makes citizens feel less, not more safe and erodes the trust of citizens in police officers who are expected to keep the peace, not breach the peace.  This parody song lyric is not intended to disparage the difficult job that police face today but to suggest that the justification for militarization of police, stopping drug traffickers and terrorists, in the case of most cities, has been stretched mighty thin.

(To the tune of “When the Sun Comes Out,” by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler” (1941))

When the police buy tanks,
When they come in Bear Cats to arrest.
When the police close ranks
like a military arm.
Are the people safe from harm?

Keep the peace, make war?
Why the deadly new gear?  What for?
In the summer heat,
if you’re black and wear a hood,
they’ll assume that you’re no good.
Safe to walk the beat? No thanks!
Not when the police buy tanks.

When it’s us and them.
Watch the tinderbox combust.
When it’s all mistrust,
with that war mentality,
we become the enemy.
Safe to walk the beat?  No thanks!
Not when the police buy tanks.

Lyric © 2014 by Robert S. Steinberg,
Esquire All rights reserved

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