Tam of View From the Porch has posted a very important essay on modern policing. She mentions instances when the police have gotten out of line. She knows that cops perform a valuable function, but wonders if their powers need to be curtailed and hopes we don't tighten the leash too much.
If we do need to tighten the leash, I hope we can. We've given law enforcement a great deal of power recently. We let them dress like ninjas because sometimes they need to. Of course, they determine what that need might be. We let them have automatic weapons and armored vehicles because sometimes they just might need them. We can only blame ourselves if law enforcement doesn't always use these powers and equipment wisely.
In Tam's last paragraph, she says, "I don't care if Johnny Law has a scary looking assault rifle. Heck, I have one, so why shouldn't he?" Like Tam, I don't care if they have rifles, but I've often wondered why police need automatic weapons.
Such guns were invented to shoot at massed bodies of troops. Police rarely deal with massed groups of criminals. If they do, it will be rioters and police wouldn't (I hope) open up with machine guns for fear they'd hit bystanders.
Most of the time, police deal with only a few criminals at a time. They almost always have backups who can carry shotguns or semi-auto carbines. I just don't see their need for automatic weapons.
Then there's the civil libertarian side of me that feels miffed that police departments can buy brand new machine guns for less than $1,000.00 while I'm limited to guns made on or before 1986 and costing $3,000.00 on up to six figures. The police should never have weapons that the average civilian can't have.
Then there's the realization that modern military practices limit most soldiers to rifles that will fire at most three round bursts. In a squad one soldier is equipped with a fully automatic Squad Assault Weapon (SAW). As I understand it, the soldiers use their rifles for precision, aimed fire, while the guy with the SAW uses his gun to lay down suppressive fire when needed.
I really hope we never see a time when our police lay down suppressive fire in an American city.