John Oliver On Ferguson: No, You Don't Need That Tank

It's no question that the police in Ferguson, Missouri are absurdly over-armed, and their LRADs, tear gas, and other military-grade gear are making things worse, not better. And on last night's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver did a spectacular job of breaking it all down in a way that's almost as funny as it is utterly horrifying.


Between the insane of amount of overkill gear flooding into small communities thanks to the Defense Department 1033 program—which pretty much accepts "You never know!" as a valid reason for a tank—and the meteoric rise of fully-equipped SWAT raids for mere search warrant execution, the unrest in Ferguson isn't a chance occurrence, but a symptom of an overall more-is-more mentality that's been dominating law enforcement for years now.

Oliver makes a pretty compelling case for taking all the toys away and issuing a stern time-out, and it's good for a laugh—if you can keep from crying. [Last Week Tonight]


I absolutely agree that MRAPs and other types of military surplus gear are almost certainly more than any police department will ever need. The question is, what should we do with this surplus equipment? Scrap it? It seems reasonable to send things that the national guard does not need to the police.

Also, has there been a meteoric rise in SWAT raids? Just curious about this. From what I had heard there was only one state that even tracked SWAT team deployment (Maryland) and according to that data the number of SWAT team deployments has not increased substantially at all since 2009. Even if there has been a trend up in SWAT team deployments, is that a result of police departments receiving surplus military gear or is it for some other reason?