Democrats have met the enemy, and it is the police. Well, not all police. They love the heavily armed federal police at agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.
Just days after George Floyd died in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, Democrats managed to compile a sweeping police reform bill that would, among other things, limit “qualified immunity” of police officers, lower the limits on what constitutes excessive force, create a national registry of police misconduct, bar the use of “no-knock” arrest warrants, and limit the transfer of military equipment to police departments.
Meanwhile, Democrats around the country have been talking about defunding the police, with some proposing to shift resources from law enforcement to social services.
But none has proposed imposing similar restrictions on federal officers. And no Democrat is talking about defunding them.
Even some on the left have noticed this disparity. The leftist Slate.com published an article last week complaining that “while Democrats seek to rein in local law enforcement, they have given the most powerful and least accountable police force in the country a free pass.”
The writer was referring to Customs and Border Patrol agents, another bête noir of the left. But the CBP is often dealing with violent lawbreakers.
What’s the excuse for federal agencies such as the EPA, Food and Drug Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Education, and National Institute of Standards and Technology to be purchasing military-grade equipment?
A 2016 study by Open the Books found that from 2006 to 2014, more than 60 federal agencies spent a total of $1.5 billion on guns, ammunition and military-style equipment. The EPA alone spent more than $3 million on such weaponry.
The report found that over those years, “The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service spent $4.77 million purchasing shotguns, .308 caliber rifles, night vision goggles, propane cannons, liquid explosives, pyro supplies, buckshot, LP gas cannons, drones, remote-controlled helicopters, thermal cameras, military waterproof thermal infrared scopes, and more.” Yes, you read that right. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
In one 10-year period, the number of federal law enforcement officers jumped nearly 50%, the study found.
The result of this increased militarization of federal regulatory agencies has been incidents such as a pre-dawn raid by Food and Drug Administration agents of an Amish dairy farm for the crime of selling raw milk. Or the invasion of a California home by the Department of Education, in which officers kicked in the door, threw Kenneth Wright (a black man) to the ground and handcuffed him, while keeping his three young children in a squad car for two hours. What were they looking for? Apparently his estranged wife (who wasn’t even there) was suspected of being involved in a student-loan fraud ring.
Then there was the raid by armed EPA agents of a small gold mining operation in Alaska. And the armed raid of the home of a 60-something-year old couple by the Fish and Wildlife Service for the heinous crime of cultivating, importing and selling orchids.
Not only do Democrats not want to rein in the militarization of the federal agencies, they want to expand it.
In fact, the Trump administration has come under heavy attack because the EPA’s arrest rate has gone down since he took office.
In 2018, Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee complained that there’d been “a 30% cut in criminal enforcement cases” at the EPA, and that the number of agents in the EPA’s criminal enforcement division had fallen.
The liberal American Prospect – which this month declared that “it is time to start defunding our punishment bureaucracy” – bitterly attacked President Donald Trump a few months earlier because “the number of EPA criminal enforcement cases concluded under Trump in his third fiscal year was less than half the number done under fellow Republican President George W. Bush, no environmental hero himself.”
Meanwhile, eight Democratic state attorneys general have sued the EPA for relaxing its enforcement activities during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
And Joe Biden has promised more police powers for the EPA. He says if he’s elected he’d seek prison time for business executives who run afoul of EPA regulations.
A few years ago, Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, introduced the Regulatory Agency De-militarization Act, saying that “It’s disturbing to see the stories of federal regulators armed to the teeth and breaking into homes and businesses when there was no reason to think there would be resistance.”
It’s time to dust off this bill and try tack it onto every police reform bill Democrats propose.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board