By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE – New Mexico Watchdog’s story on the 30-second commercial for the Hobbs Police Department is getting national attention.
The Washington Post website picked up the story on “The Watch,” a blog on civil liberties and the criminal justice system that’s written by Radley Balko, the author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.”
The Hobbs Police Department has been running the commercial on TV stations across New Mexico, trying to lure recruits with good pay and benefits.
But the images in the 30-second spot of Hobbs officers in riot gear — as well as an armored personnel vehicle — prompted criticism from a Cato Institute scholar. Click here to read the New Mexico Watchdog story. Here’s the commercial itself:
Balko offered his own critique in the Post:
“Now ask yourself: What sort of person would be attracted to a career in law enforcement based on the images and activities depicted in that video? And is that the sort of person you’d want wearing a badge and carrying a gun in your neighborhood?
“The video isn’t disturbing only because of the type of police officer it’s likely to attract. It also suggests that the leadership in the Hobbs police department believes that these are the aspects of police work most worth touting — that this is the face they want to project to the community.”
But Hobbs isn’t alone. Balko offered examples of other cities and towns that produced videos for their police departments that also highlighted aggressive images.
Such as Newport Beach, Calif.:
And Springdale, Ark., a town of 70,000 that seemingly had a budget big enough to produce a video that looks like something out of a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced movie:
In addition to Balko’s post, former Gov. Gary Johnson also tweeted the NM Watchdog story out to his 123,000 followers:
By the way, in our original story, we mentioned the video of the Hobbs SWAT team that’s on the police department’s website. We have since found a link to the video that combines shots of officers firing automatic weapons to a heavy-metal music soundtrack:
Update 4/21: Working on a tip from a colleague in Minnesota, we came across a story from last fall about how the police department in St. Cloud, Minn., rolled out an armored vehicle that was originally used for military training:
ROLLING OUT IN ST. CLOUD: A retrofitted armored military vehicle is in use by the police department in the town of St. Cloud, Minn.
According to WJON Radio in St. Cloud, the vehicle is an MRAP — Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected — and came from the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department. It’s worth $400,000 and the town of just under 66,000 residents spent $10,000 to retrofit it for the city’s SWAT team.
Lt. Jeff Oxton said during the unveiling that the MRAP “has full ballistic capabilities, which will help us against any kind of small arms fire, rifle fire, even explosives and things like that.”
Back in 1988, hundreds of students at St. Cloud State University rioted during homecoming week at the school. As many as 1,500 people were involved and about 50 arrests were made.
Contact Rob Nikolewski at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski