Rand Paul on Police Militarization and Corporate Influence

Eric Zulaski on January 15, 2015
I asked Senator Paul a followup question from our last encounter in October about the connection between the militarization of police and the political influence of corporations that profit from those policies.

Me: Senator Paul, Last November you came to Scott Brown’s campaign office in Manchester and you told me you would look into the connection between the militarization of the police and the influence of those corporations that profit from these policies. Since then, we’ve seen the City of Berlin has approved the purchase of a BEARCAT. So now we have 9 in the state. I wanted to know what can we do to limit this excessive influence in the politics over this policy

Rand Paul: You know, I’m very concerned about the militarization of the police. I’m an advocate for the police. Most police are good people. You need police to be safe. At the same time I don’t think you need a 20 ton mine resistant ambush protection vehicle in Keene, NH. We’ve gone overboard on this.

The rules for dispensing military equipment say they can’t be used in riot control. And in Ferguson they’re out there for riot control gear and it looks like an army is there. If you’re an African American in Ferguson, you think the white police have an army, and they’re after me. That’s the perception. I don’t think there was that much racial in any of it. But there’s a perception of an overwhelming police force.

I’ve looked at this in committee. We gave out 12,000 bayonets to local police forces. Somebody please tell  me what you’re supposed to do with a bayonet? There is no conceivable use for a bayonet domestically. We don’t use bayonets in war. We definitely don’t need them for the police force.

600 20-ton vehicles. Dundee MI has 3900 people and they have a mine resistant ambush protection vehicle. When we looked at it in committee, we found that 1/3 of this so-called surplus equipment is brand new.

So what you and I talked about it, if it’s brand new are they then replacing it in the military budget with also brand new stuff. We’re looking into it. We don’t have an answer yet. But I do have a bill that I will introduce. I don’t think it’s in yet. We’ve only been there for a couple days. This bill will strip certain military weapons from being given to police departments. I’m fine with bulletproof jackets being given to the police force. Anything else to help protect our police.

The rules say that can’t be used in riot control anyway. They’re only supposed to be used for terrorism. I kind of jokingly say we spent 8 million dollars on terrorism in Fargo.  I say when the terrorists get to Fargo, we might as well just surrender.

We do have to protect ourselves though. New York obviously needs more terrorist protection than Fargo. We just need to be smart enough where we spend limited dollars on protecting ourselves. Small communities could have radical Islamists try to attack them. Good luck at defending with bayonets, mine-resistant vehicles and bayonets and stuff.

We’re still working on it. I still don’t have an answer on whether or not there is a corporate influence on buying new stuff, giving it away as used and then replacing it with new stuff.  I suspect it is a problem.

Me: Well there is evidence that lobbyists give more money to those legislators that support these policies. So this is a concern of a lot of people

Rand Paul: This is a problem throughout government. You have government buying stuff from people and then people selling the stuff are then lobbying to get more stuff from the government.

People have talked about campaign finance reform. In general republicans and myself are opposed to restrictions on finance. The one restriction I would accept is, if you do a billion dollars worth of business with government, maybe you shouldn’t be able allowed to take any of that billion dollars and lobby the government for more money.”

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