Senator Bernie Sanders (I -VT) appeared on MSNBC’s The Ed Show on Monday, to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ferguson, Missouri. During the conversation Sanders discussed demilitarizing America’s police forces and using the funds towards community-based policing and creating jobs.
First, Sanders came out in support of demilitarizing America’s police, saying he would be “absolutely in favor of taking a hard, hard look” at the federal program that provides assistance to local police, to help them obtain military equipment.
“When you see the kind of force that’s being used in Ferguson it really does make it appear that the police department there is an occupying army in a hostile territory, and that is absolutely not what we want to see in the United States. I think we gotta rethink a lot this heavy equipment that police departments around the country are utilizing.”
Sanders added that he sees community-based policing, where police are seen as part of the community, as a part of the solution to returning stability to American communities. He said community based policing is:
“Where police officers are seen as part of the neighborhood, they know people in the neighborhood, they are trusted by people in the neighborhood,”
That’s a far cry from what we’re seeing in the city of Ferguson, where tanks and armored vehicles are rolling down the streets, police are pointing missile launchers at the neighbors, and the neighborhood is being bombarded with tear gas.
Sanders points out that the militarization of local police has created an environment in which the people are made to feel that they are the enemy. He called the situation ‘provocative’ and said again that the local police force should not resemble an occupying army.
Bernie Sanders: Low-income communities need jobs, not tanks.
Sanders went on to say that violence is not the only problem facing low-income communities. The economic crisis that has plagued the United States since the not so great George W. Bush recession, has impacted low-income and minority citizens the hardest.
The unemployment rate for young black people remains above 30 percent. Instead of investing in jobs, republicans in Washington have blocked every last effort to do so, choosing to spend taxpayer money on handouts to big corporations and programs that turn America’s streets into a scene out of a war zone.
“I hope what Ferguson teaches us is that not only the violence being perpetrated against young black men, but also the economic crisis facing black youth in this country. Ed, youth unemployment in America is tragically high. It is twenty percent. African-American youth unemployment is thirty-five percent. In the St. Louis area it is significantly higher than that, and if we are going to address the issue of crime in low-income areas and in African-American areas, it might be a good idea that instead of putting heavy equipment into police departments in those areas, we start creating jobs for the kids there who desperately need them.”
What’s really behind America’s militarized police?
A recent expose by the New York Times revealed that lawmakers who support the federal program which provides military weapons to local police receive, on average, 73 percent more contributions from the defense industry. In June, the GOP Congress voted down a measure introduced by democratic Congressman Alan Grayson, which would have put an end to the Pentagon’s 1033 program. Lawmakers that voted against Grayson’s bill received an average of $50,000 more from defense contractors, than lawmakers that voted to support the bill.
It’s time for Americans to stand together to demand that our representatives do what’s best for people, rather than doing what is profitable for themselves. As Senator Sanders said, instead of spending billions of tax payer dollars on militarizing local police, it might be a good idea to start investing in creating jobs for the benefit of the people who really need them.