Militarizing Mayberry

America, long ago, passed very strong laws limiting the ability of the federal government to deploy troops domestically. These laws, the Insurrection Act and the Posse Commitatus Act, prevent federal forces from being used domestically except in the most dire of national emergencies. Though weakened by the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill which, in the wake of President Bush being blamed for a slow response to Hurricane Katrina, watered down the justification needed for the use of federal forces domestically, these laws are still very much in effect and are some of the most important limits on federal power in federal code.

But it seems as though the feds have found a way to go around these laws. Across the nation, under the guise of national security, local local law enforcement agencies are being militarized through money made available by Congress. This leaves us with local police officers so thoroughly armed that they are almost indistinguishable, in some ways, from soldiers.

Nestled amid plains so flat the locals joke you can watch your dog run away for miles, Fargo treasures its placid lifestyle, seldom pierced by the mayhem and violence common in other urban communities. North Dakota’s largest city has averaged fewer than two homicides a year since 2005, and there’s not been a single international terrorism prosecution in the last decade.

But that hasn’t stopped authorities in Fargo and its surrounding county from going on an $8 million buying spree to arm police officers with the sort of gear once reserved only for soldiers fighting foreign wars.

Every city squad car is equipped today with a military-style assault rifle, and officers can don Kevlar helmets able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition. And for that epic confrontation—if it ever occurs—officers can now summon a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. For now, though, the menacing truck is used mostly for training and appearances at the annual city picnic, where it’s been parked near the children’s bounce house.

“Most people are so fascinated by it, because nothing happens here,” says Carol Archbold, a Fargo resident and criminal justice professor at North Dakota State University. “There’s no terrorism here.”

Like Fargo, thousands of other local police departments nationwide have been amassing stockpiles of military-style equipment in the name of homeland security, aided by more than $34 billion in federal grants since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a Daily Beast investigation conducted by the Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

Not only is a waste of money to militarize law enforcement officers in relatively low-crime areas like Fargo and North Dakota in general, it’s a worrisome bit of mission creep that has our law enforcement departments becoming more and more dependent on federal money for equipment and outfitting.

Obviously, a federal grant allowing local law enforcement to buy assault rifles, tanks and…uh…snow cone machines isn’t the same thing as a federal take over of law enforcement. But it is wasteful spending at a time when our nation can ill afford it, and you really have to wonder why people think even the communities in our nation with the least amount of crime need to be patrolled by law enforcement officials armed as if they were in Baghdad instead of Fargo.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Wesley Fargo

    Rob, maybe you want to be the lead officer the next time Minot PD needs to kick the door in at a meth cook house… I’m thinking the Kevlar helmet / Body armor and AR 15 might make you feel a bit more like you have a better chance to go home after the bust/shift is over.

    As demand for their illicit product goes up and the cash flows in, the bad guys will have more money, and more resources to buy what ever then can to secure their  stash. 

    They don’t carry .38’s anymore,  even in TinyTown ND.

    Is it money borrowed from China? yes,  Is the expense worth the interest rate? Yes

    Your husband or wife coming home in one piece after a patrol shift… Priceless.

    • Rob

      It might surprise you to learn that I am the son of a cop.  My dad was an Alaska State Trooper of some note (there’s a film slated to come out in November documenting of my dad’s more infamous collars, serial killer Robert Hansen).  He also spent years working as a vice cop, dealing with the very things you’re talking about.

      So, as a son who was often waiting at home for dad to finish his shift safely, I’m all for protecting our cops.

      I’m still not sure why that means every patrol officer needs body armor and an assault rifle.

      • Hannitized, Proofs obsession

        I’m still not sure why that means every patrol officer needs body armor and an assault rifle.

        And were painfully aware of that.  This is precisely why people are asking you to know what you are talking about before you attempt to draw attention to your temper tantrums.

      • borborygmi

        Ask that from any cop that has been saved by body armor.

      • Hal713

        “I’m still not sure why that means every patrol officer needs body armor and an assault rifle.”

        The North Hollywood bank robbery really started this trend.  Any police officer who does not wear body armor and have a long gun close by is naive, in my humble opinion.

        • two_amber_lamps

          Those poor cops were un-equipped to deal with that situation…  7.62×39 will make swiss cheese of soft body armor and at the time LA PD was forbidden to carry AR rifles in patrol vehicles for “public relations” purposes…

      • Willis Forster

        I visit Fargo every year and i can tell you that it is just a matter of time till there is some terrorist activity because it has a large and growing muslim immigrant population . There is also a growing mexican drug cartel presence.

    • Independent

      Maybe they shouldn’t kick the door in.  Maybe they should just let the fools fry their brains or figure out they need medical help on their own without hijacking my income for their war of choice, not necessity or defense.

  • Guest

    Fargo? C’mon. Stanley, now, well maybe.

    • $8194357

      Hey…Whats up with that?  lol

  • Captornado

    “Every city squad car is equipped today with a military-style assault rifle” –Please define {military-style assault rifle} I really doubt the FPD has select fire or full-auto capable weapons. My hunch would be these are semi-auto rifles which are available to just about everyone. Just more ignorance being spewed to incite Joe Public about evil evil guns which is further proven by the following: ”
     able to withstand incoming fire from battlefield-grade ammunition.”  The term {battlefield-grade ammunition} as it relates to this article is absurd on a galactic scale. What exactly makes ammunition ‘battlefield grade’?

    • 2inat300yds

      I live in a small town with highly militarized police and sheriff’s departments. I’m an emergency responder and I’ve gotten to know a lot of them, and I shoot with them often. I’ve shot many of their weapons. Their rifles and sub guns (M16s and MP5s) are ALL select fire except the snipers, who use custom built M700s.

      • Captornado

        So you’re saying this small town in North Dakota not only has a police dept. and sheriff dept that has select fire weapons but also has sniper(s)??? What ‘small town’ is this?

        And even if you’re being truthful, my original comment still stands regarding the Fargo PD and the weapon they supposedly have as well as the carnage inducing ‘battlefield grade ammunition’.

      • $8194357

        Nice choices.

    • $8194357


      • 2hotel9

        5.56 NATO as opposed to commercially produced .223? Perhaps captomato will need the difference ‘splained?

        • Captornado

          I know the difference. I also understand it’s nothing more then rhetoric aimed at scaring the uninformed when it comes to guns. 5.56 NATO or as it is described here as ‘battlefield grade ammunition’ is available at just about any sporting goods store. If the police are going to be arming themselves with ‘Military style assault weapons’ I’d rather them be equipped with better ammo then ‘battlefield grade’ as anyone who actually knows something about the subject knows the terminal ballistics of FMJ 5.56 knows it’s substandard. But hey, lets not let facts get in the way of scary rhetoric and bull sh*t buzz words right?

          • 2hotel9

            Ah, ain’t that cute?!?! captomato, anti-gun nazi, has its panties in a wad. Come on, sweety, cry for us some now. Screech&wail, we love laughing at leftards who do that.

            In the meantime I am of to pick up the new scope I ordered for my RPK. Later, whiner.

          • Captornado

            Anti-gun? Lefty?? Did you fall down and hit your head? I am as far from anti-gun and left leaning as you can get. Your reading and comprehension skills need some polishing. I have ZERO problem with our LEO being properly equipped. What I do have a problem with, is the bullsh*t rhetoric being used to paint firearms as something they are not. It serves no purpose other then to scare Joe Public and turn him into an anti-gun/2nd Amendment supporter. Characterizing rifles that in all likelihood are no different then the several AR-15’s or the semi-auto ‘hunting’ rifles that are sitting in my safe, as “Military Style Assault Rifles” is irresponsible a best. Describing the ammunition for those rifles as ‘battlefield grade’, as if it serves no other purpose than war and only belongs in places like Iraq is totally absurd. Furthermore, the ammo or military uses in their battle rifles is sub standard and I personally wouldn’t want our LEO to use it. There is much better and much more LETHAL ammo available that would serve them much better. What is so hard to understand?

          • 2hotel9

            And yet you keep screeching against American citizens having firearms and in support of government massively exceeding its Constitutional bounds and usurping the Rights of American citizens through an ever increasing escalation of un-Constitutional authoritarian expansion. My, my, you certainly have gotten your a$$ in a crack, captomato.

            As for reading comprehension, perhaps you should apply some to Rob’s post, mayhaps then you might have some idea what the f*ck he is saying, captomato.

          • Captornado

            Care to point out where I have ever come remotely close to saying I am against American citizens having firearms? I won’t hold my breath because it’s never happened sparky. Please seek medical help immediately for the stroke you are currently having. 

          • Grizzler1

             2h9 is a drunken fool who usually has no idea what he is saying or to whom he is speaking. This is normal for him. An angry drunken fool.

          • 2hotel9

            Ah, ain’t that cute? A new suckpuppet from ec*nt. Now twirl&spin and spew more sh*t, it is all you ever do.

          • Grizzler1

            Thanks for proving my point. I aint him and you aint sober.

          • 2hotel9

            Sure, ec*nt, whatever.

          • 2hotel9

            Ever comment you have made in this thread is taken directly from the anti-gun talking points, sweety. You screech about “language” and how Americans are just stupid. Typical Democrat Party sh*t.

        • two_amber_lamps

          SAAMI chamber pressure…  and steel core penetrators used in some variants of the 5.56 round…

          5.56 in .223 chambered rifles can be bad ju-ju! Wylde chamber for the winz!


  • $8194357

    Janet Napolitano said if Andy gave Barney more than one bullet, she would nuke em….

  • Jimmypop

    ideally, none of this cash is spent at all, but if we are committed to spend it…..i cannot believe there are far better places for this money to be spent. somewhere it will be used.

  • borborygmi

    Heard m13 has started to move into the oil fields bringing in drugs and prostitutes.  If that is true I would want the police to be armed.   

  • borborygmi

    I would think the same would be true along the Mexican Border.   People on this board support 2nd Amendment and use as a reason for Carry Conceal they don’t want to be unarmed or out gunned.  Why would you want the police to be out gunned?  Is there that much distrust in the police by the SABers?

  • borborygmi

    I will go along with Rob in that it is Federal Money and doesn’t have to be. 

  • Roy_Bean

    Sgt. Steven Kenner, Bismarck

    Officer James Ryan McCandless, Rapid City

    Officer Nick Armstrong, Rapid City 

    Deputy Chris Dewey, Mahnomen County

  • Rocky

    How many incidents will it take to justify arming our law enforcement personnel to withstand any threat?  Just because we have a low crime rate doesn’t mean it can’t happen here.  And anything can happen at the drop of a hat.  No terrorism here?  I beg to differ.  There may not be overt acts of terrorism, but peaceful rural communities are great places for home-grown terrorists to hide and plan their attacks.  Places like Fargo, big enough to blend into the background without drawing attention, yet small enough and peacful enough to give residents a false sense of security.  If cops get a tip on some terrorists in Fargo or Bismarck, MInot, Grand Forks, etc. I’m all for them being armed to the effing teeth when they bust down the door of some sh*tbag who is hell bent on harming my country.  If a million bucks worth of equipment saves the life of one good cop, it was money well spent.

  • Jamermorrow

    Amazing how many so called small government conservatives support arming the police department in this manner. Self defense is an individual responsibility and should not be delegated to other people. Being a police officer is dangerous. If you don’t want to be in danger don’t be a police officer. Waste of money like almost all government spending.

    • Hal713

      Self described anarchist,

      Why is it you don’t want the police to be properly armed?

      • Jamermorrow

        Donate your own money but don’t force others to pay for it.

  • 2hotel9

    Local police in rural America want to go all in on this arms race thing? Fine, just gives more justification to law abiding citizens to arm up. If the situation is that bad for law enforcement then it is 10 times worse for the citizen who lives 40-60 minutes out from response. Oop, there it is.

    And don’t be so impressed with your local barneys! Here in PA dog catchers and game wardens are sporting full classIII body armor, M4s, HK93s, MP5s and Springfield Armory’s M14 sniping variant. All thanks to Uncle Sam. And don’t forget the full spectrum of non-lethals. 

    • Jamermorrow

      Exactly right, why should the government have access to anything normal civilians cannot have? We have the second amendment to defend ourselves from government. Government should fear the people not the other way around.

      • borborygmi

        Jack booted thugs been knocking on your door again? What did you do or not do this time.    Everyone should be living in the Ghettos.  Everyone has a gun so it is  the safest place on earth to live.  Kinda of like Iraq where everyone carries around an Ak…. Heaven on Earth.   You guys must be absolutely jealous.    

        • 2hotel9

          Actually, in Iraq, “everyone” does not carry around an AK and the problem is carbombs and suicide vests, not guns in the hands of law abiding citizens. But hey! Keep throwing out those strawmen, it is the only exercise you get.

  • mickey_moussaoui

    Gun sales have been at record levels over the past three years. It’s the obama effect. All these people arming themselves expect the worse from this administration. I can’t say that I blame them.

    • realitybasedbob

      ‘Obama will take away all your guns’

      Best marketing gimmick in years.

      • borborygmi

        Absolutely.  It does keep that part of the economy going.   Doing the same thing in oil land in ND.   Fear the great retail stimulator.   

      • 2hotel9

        “y’all have to understand, I am doing everything I can, but, ah, we have to work, you know, under the radar, to move forward on this”  Barack Hussein Obama addressing members of the Brady Campaign, Joyce Foundation, Children’s Defense Fund, Stop Handgun Violence, League of Women Voters, ACORN, etc etc, at a gathering after Congress, controlled by Democrats, in 2010 failed to pass a Bill for stricter gun control regulations.

        And then, we got HufPo.”Obama’s history in support of strict gun control measures prior to
        becoming president makes it difficult for him to claim he’s a Second
        Amendment champion, even though he signed a bill allowing people to take
        loaded guns into national parks. At the same time, he’s apparently
        decided that his record backing gun safety is nothing to boast of either”

        Perhaps you should figure out what is, in fact, going on in your Party, the Democrat Party, before spewing your sh*t and lies, boob.

      • mickey_moussaoui

        You obviously don’t pay attention to his actions regarding gun ownership.

  • Jfisher17

    Harry Reid- “Republicans want to put arsenic and mercury into the water.” Coming in a close second for best marketing gimmick in years.

    • realitybasedbob

      Not even close. The second place has to go to La Pierre for saying ‘it’s a conspiracy that Obama hasn’t taken away our guns in his first term, he’s waiting to take away all the guns during his second term.’

      • borborygmi

        A prognosticator?     What the hell Obama is a shoe in.   La Pierre predicted a second term.

      • 2hotel9

        “y’all have to understand, I am doing everything I can, but, ah, we have
        to work, you know, under the radar, to move forward on this”  Barack
        Hussein Obama addressing members of the Brady Campaign, Joyce
        Foundation, Children’s Defense Fund, Stop Handgun Violence, League of
        Women Voters, ACORN, etc etc, at a gathering after Congress, controlled
        by Democrats, in 2010 failed to pass a Bill for stricter gun control

        And then, we got HufPo.”Obama’s history in support of strict gun control measures prior to
        becoming president makes it difficult for him to claim he’s a Second
        Amendment champion, even though he signed a bill allowing people to take
        loaded guns into national parks. At the same time, he’s apparently
        decided that his record backing gun safety is nothing to boast of either”

        you should figure out what is, in fact, going on in your Party, the
        Democrat Party, before spewing your sh*t and lies, boob. 

    • borborygmi

      He was way off base.  NO Conservative wants to PUT arsenic and mercury into the water……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………wait for it…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..They just don’t want to take it out…………………………..Ta Dah

      which does pose a problem with disposing all those curly light bulbs.

  • VocalYokel

    I have two Brothers and several friends who are active duty Law Enforcement Officers.
    I also have two Uncles who are retired policemen. (Detroit)
    Any money spent that gets them home safely is justified, IMHO.

    However, I have on several occasions discussed the ‘militarization’ of LEO with them and the consensus is that much of the money spent on ‘enhancing response capabilities’ is used for items with a high public profile and little or no practical application in the field.
    Acquisitions are made without the input, or against the advice of the personnel who have a vested interest in the outcome.

    Too often this is a case of politicians (not being ‘tough on crime’ is a political no-no) simply throwing money at a problem without a true understanding of what is really needed, and the expenditures result in public relations purchases that give citizens an enhanced yet false sense of security.

    • 2hotel9

      Ding, ding, ding.  Body armor? Yes. Better communications? Yes. Better training in Civilian Law and Codes? Yes. Better training for handling domestic disturbances and medical emergencies? Yes. Arming every cop as if they are a Marine rifleman heading into Falujha? No. Only if they are operating in a high crime area, Detroit, LA, Oakland, Chicago, DC, US-Mexico border, etc etc, sure, sound idea.  Otherwise, a waste of money and resources.

  • Daryn Rabbe

    If one considers themself a sensible fiscal conservative, then one must rationally apply that thought across the entire spectrum of government. I too agree that our cops should be able to defend themselves according to the times, but at the same time we should apply prudence in just how much defense is necessary, especially so in our Republic where the principles of self-reliance (self-defense) was adopted.

    Public security can be expensive – especially so with the “you can never be too safe” mindset or lofty, illogical “zero crime-rate” campaigns operating from within local law enforcement agencies.

    Over-stocking law-enforcement shelves with expensive taxpayer-funded toys makes it all the more enticing to utilize “every tool available” (i.e. spend) on virtually every suspicious & speculative report called-in. Case in point: Was it a “conservative” action to spend a few hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer money in order to flush-out ONE individual from a cornfield who was armed with a pellet gun? Chastise me all you want, but i would call that action very liberal when it comes to spending my money.

    I believe one of the proper roles of government is to provide security for life & property. But at what point does it become too much? As Americans who pride ourselves with personal responsibility & self-reliance, how much of our own personal/family security should we be accountable for?

    From the looks of it today – None.

    Viewed from the perspective of a nanny-state, social welfare society which libertarian-leaning conservatitives like me are always quick to critisize, on principle, how is this lavish spending, over-reliance and dependence on government any different than any other social net out there?

    Why aren’t more of us armed today and taking more personal responsibility (while saving money) rather than having someone else “take care of it for us” while using someone else’s money. I think that’s a fair question to ask ourselves.     

  • SigFan

    I don’t really have much of a problem with municipal LEOs being well-armed/equipped.   I have a lot of problems with all the alphabet agencies building up their own independent SWAT teams.  These organizations are already outside the authority of the constitution IMO and adding their own private armies should be a cause for concern in any right thinking American.

    • 2hotel9

      Too true, Federal government agencies have only to submit a request to FBI or US Marshal Service and they have all the armed force they could need. Given that those offices see the requests as legitimate. Oops. Guess that is why FDA, USDA, Dept Interior, Dept Trans, IRS and all the rest are building their own private armies, their complete inability to show just cause to real law enforcement agencies for all those armed raids on US citizens.

  • mickey_moussaoui

    These agencies are prepping for the collapse of society. Obama’s massive deficits and excessive spending are not sustainable. Eventually, the shit will hit the fan.

    • SigFan

       Sure does appear to be headed in that direction.  And eventually will come before November if I’m not mistaken.  Purely coincidental though – not.

      • mickey_moussaoui

        The advantage to living in rural America is that you can watch the cities melt down knowing that it will have little direct effect on your life.

        • SigFan

          I hear you. I’m not exactly out in the boonies, but far enough from civilization that people would have to go out of their way to find me.

  • two_amber_lamps

    Rob, if your dad was a police officer I can’t believe you’d make a contention that a cop shouldn’t have a long arm… ESPECIALLY UP HERE IN ND!!

    Remember a little incident down in LA where a couple of up-armored bank robbers shot how many police officers?  Held them at bay for how long?  Their soft armor was WORTHLESS against rifle rounds which slice thru Level 3a soft armor like butter.  It was only designed for pistol rounds.

    Daily wear, cops are only going to want to wear soft armor since walking around in full ceramic plate sucks. But you’d deny SWAT operators the equipment to stop bullets that may save their life in a tactical situation?

    What of that bank robbery in Gilby, not just a few years ago? How do we know this won’t happen at a bank in Fargo? Maybe they’ll be a bit more adept and bring that kind of hardware? Why knock over a bank in a city with a practiced SWAT team when they can travel to Fargo because they still live in the 60’s? (sarcasm intended, Fargo SWAT’s as good as any team out there.)

    What do many if not most ND’ers have in their houses?  Pistols?  Negative…  Deer rifles, .308, 30-06, 7mm, etc.  ranges out past 300 yards.  And you want a beat-cop to be lacking even basic body armor and a rifle to defend himself until reinforcements show up? 

    That’s utterly ABSURD.

    I hate to burst your bubble, but these are tools of the trade in that line of work,  No matter if you live in ND, DC, or San Diego. 

    Would you really want to put your police at a disadvantage as compared to virtually every deer hunter in the state?  Tell you what, if you were making the rules I wouldn’t touch the job of police officer in your vicinity, not with a ten foot pole. 

    Please, go talk to your Dad.  Does he agree with your statement?  If so, then perhaps he should be patrolling or was patrolling in Mayberry and not the streets of a major metropolitan city. 

    Obviously beat cops don’t need to be patrolling in hummers, but police departments need options when bad people decide to do bad things.  And limiting them to a 50’s wheel gun and a bullet in their shirt pocket is an affront to common sense.

    Also…  “military grade”?  “Assault rifle”?  Come on Rob, I gave you more credit than that!

    What is an “assault rifle?”  That’s a leftist contrivance.  A black gun with a pistol grip?  It carries a few more rounds in the magazine?  Most any rifle with a detachable magazine can be easily converted to “an assault rifle” merely by fabricating an extended mag.  A pistol grip can be had by swapping a stock.  You can take a semi-auto Remington hunting rifle and make it into an “ASSAULT RIFLE” with just a few simple mods. 

    My point is assault rifle is just a stupid word invented by the left to justify banning most any long rifle that is semi-automatic. 

    Cops USE AR-15’s M-4 variant because:

    Many departments get them used from the military at reduced cost or free.
    They are generally more reliable than their civilian hunting rifle counterparts given the conditions they operate in.
    They are more compact than civilian hunting rifles, easier to get in and out of a vehicle, easier to manuver/manipulate when working urban settings.

    Military grade ammunition??  Who said that crap?  Cops don’t use military grade ammo for the same reason hunters don’t use full metal jackets.  The object is to stop the threat and incapacitate someone who poses a deadly threat.  “Military grade” ammo such as M855 green-tip ammo is the last thing in the world you wanna use for law enforcement work.  It’s armor piercing which means it goes thru people, car doors, walls, doors, children, puppies etc.  Not only does it not impart it’s full energy on humans bent on performing sociopathic acts, it punches thru them and into the house next door. 

    In other words “military grade ammo” is a liability for cops. 

    I’m sorry Rob, I usually agree with you on most of what you print on your blog, but I gotta tell ya, I take serious umbrage at some of the points you make here or should I say THE INNUENDOS.  Police aren’t here to take your rights away, if anyone is guilty of that it’s the politicians and bureaucracy who make the laws and the policies the police are MANDATED to follow. 

    Don’t paint that totalitarian face on cops, for every bad apple there’s 100 others who are in that line of work for all the RIGHT reasons.


    As for the source of these funds? The fed shouldn’t be… but cities take advantage of what the fed puts out there… same as how the fed got the states hooked onto highway funding. But departments shouldn’t be fielding officers without the tools I stated above. I don’t care if that cop operates in Rural ND, or a major city. These are the days/times we live in, and de-quipping our law enforcers is akin to making English Bobbies of them.

  • Dlao

    get them bazookas and rpg’s. Maybe an appache helicopter will get them home safely.