US: Schooled in Terror, the Tactical Trainings where Cops Militarize their Brutality

Published on truthout, by Skanda Kadirgamar, Nov 16, 2016.

… Aggressive Trainings:

The ITOA conference is one of many tactical trainings and weapons fairs that occur across the United States. These trainings offer participating police departments a variety of training opportunities such as licensing officers to use “less than lethal” weapons like tear gas and tasers.

No militarized training would be complete without assault weapon exercises. Officers also learn to operate alongside EMTs and emergency services, and are coached in police-specific protocols for handling mental health crises. This may at first seem benign, but a look at the syllabus for the New York Tactical Officers Association offers insight into how the moves to further militarize police reinforce vicious treatment of those with mental illnesses. Materials issued at police trainings actively discourage personnel from regarding the opinions of mental health professionals and urge officers to treat people with mental illness as threatening. What is especially concerning is that such attitudes overlap with organizational cultures among police that condone constantly killing Black people. These are reflected by the deaths of many, including Dontay Ivy in Albany, New York; Alfred Olango in El Cajon, California; and most recently, Deborah Danner in New York City. All three were Black people the police killed for exhibiting signs of mental illness … //

… Cultivating Racism: … //
… Gushing Revenue: … //

… The other key revenue stream for these trainings in general (and the ITOA conference in particular) does not flow from the private sector. The Department of Homeland Security has a grant program, the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), allocating millions of dollars to qualifying city areas. This current of money joins a historical torrent of capital that the federal government bequeathed police looking to acquire paramilitary capabilities, which began with the oft-touted 1033 Program. Passed by Congress in the late 1990s, this program authorizes transfers of surplus military equipment to municipal law enforcement on request. The UASI, on the other hand, provides departments that meet qualifying risk factors with the capacity to pay for merchandise arms dealers like Safariland and Lockheed Martin typically sell to militaries, and also sponsors these trainings. In the case of the ITOA conference, both the sponsorship and arms allowance are processed by a clearinghouse known as the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS).

It is worth reflecting on the fact that the UASI grants amount to millions of dollars, and that they overwhelmingly go to police departments that hardly could be called strapped for cash. This fact sustains an overwhelming number of reasons to protest, especially considering the ideology of race-baiting that justifies this arrangement. Federal money has essentially been channeled into an infrastructure that monitors, controls and represses poorer communities that bear the brunt of racism, rather than providing economic support to poorer communicates and reviving the social and educational institutions needed to create a less violent future.

(full text, related links).

(Skanda Kadirgamar is a National Committee member of the War Resisters based in New York. He hopes to raise awareness about militarization globally because it is a process that keeps imperialism alive).


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