Don’t look now, but the overbearing power of America’s military-industrial complex has probably snuck into your town.

The multibillion-dollar global armament giants have discovered a hot new growth market here at home: police forces.

Police in Riot Gear

Thomas Hawk/Flickr

The people of Ferguson learned about the domestic proliferation of battlefield firepower the hard way this summer when their own police department came after them with a Bearcat tank, two armored Humvees, stun grenades, military-grade rifles, and other weapons of war.

It’s been widely reported that this push into combat gear (and the militant mentality that accompanies it) has largely come from a 1990 law authorizing the Pentagon to disperse surplus war equipment around the country.

Less known, however, is that our corporate arms peddlers have lately leapt into direct sales, holding field demonstrations and trade shows to titillate the fancy of police chiefs and other civilian security officials.

LRAD Corporation, for example, makes the long-range sound cannon that Ferguson, Missouri made famous when it blasted demonstrators with ear-shattering pain.

Also, such tear gas makers as Combined Systems are having a field day supplying and re-supplying police agencies. And Taser International’s electrocution gun — which can be literally heart-stopping — is now on the hips of hundreds of thousands of police officers.

In September, militarizers paraded their stuff at a Missouri shebang called the Military Police Expo. LRAD, Combined Systems, and Taser were there along with hordes of other vendors. They came to schmooze and sell to a crowd of “civilian law enforcement and chiefs of police” who were invited to go on this military shopping spree.

A coalition is gearing up to stop this pernicious sale of arms to be used against…well, anyone and everyone. For information, go to

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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