Video: Miami Dade Police Deploying Military Unit Randomly Across Town


Miami Herald reporter Doug Hanks noted on Twitter that an armored, military-grade truck was sitting outside county hall yesterday during the special county commission meeting on Venezuela:

MDPD seems to understand how powerful an image these vehicles project. The cops repeatedly warn residents to “not be alarmed” and that there is “no heightened state of emergency,” tacitly winking at the fact that cops in military gear terrify people. If local police need to repeatedly tell people not to be scared by what they’re doing, their actions deserve public scrutiny.

There’s been debate for decades over whether local police departments should have the same sort of gear as National Guard troops. MDPD’s acquisitions over the last year are a perfect example. In the last 12 months, the department has asked for a whole host of new, military-style equipment upgrades, including millions in tactical gear, rifles, and ammunition. Local street cops can’t wear that stuff on regular patrols, but now MDPD has devised a fun new way to make sure all that equipment gets used.

MDPD — the nation’s eighth-largest police force — continues to acquire vast stores of equipment with few questions asked by elected leaders. The county commission, which is supposed to keep a check on these purchases, has largely neglected to do so. Earlier this summer, MDPD asked for federal funding for spy planes that would have recorded every single movement in the city’s majority-black neighborhoods. The cops applied for Department of Justice funding without consulting the commission, got County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to sign off on the plan, and then quietly asked the commission to “retroactively” approve everything.

Once New Times broke news of the plan, members of the public and local civil-rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, rightfully freaked out, and MDPD Director Juan Perez said the public pressure forced the department to kill the whole idea.

That ordeal says everything about the way the department operates: It sucks up tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money in order to buy gunshot-detectors that probably don’t work and untold caches of rifles, money that could easily be spent to help subsidize affordable housing in the city or help needy parents feed their children — initiatives that could actually help cut the crime rate.

MDPD’s “rapid deployment unit” is a heavily armored, military-grade group that’s supposed to respond to true disasters or terror attacks. But that’s not how the police plan to use it, according to their latest press release. Instead, MDPD yesterday said the task force will be sent out to police “terrorism and counter-terrorism response operations, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and Explosives response operations, natural and man-made disasters, post-blast Explosive Ordinance Disposal Support, civil disturbances, protests, riots, and humanitarian aid.”

(It’s somewhat shocking that MDPD mentions “protests” — an act protected within the U.S. Bill of Rights — in the same breath as nuclear bomb attacks.)

Here are some clips of the rapid deployment force in action. Every time MDPD conducts an RDF training exercise, the department has to repeatedly warn residents not to freak out:

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