Pepper-Spraying Protesters Is Just the Beginning: Here Are More Hypermilitarized Weapons Your Local Police Force Could Employ
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Although holiday shopping can get out of hand, especially considering the crowds of stampeding consumers that amass hours ahead of Black Friday blowout sales and the amount of merchandise that will potentially be stolen as people stock up on holiday presents, there is something bizarre about the Department of Homeland Security funding shopping mall surveillance towers. After all, DHS is supposed to be allocating funds to boost counterterrorism efforts. Scuffles and thefts in the local Walmart parking lot don’t exactly add up to terrorist threats.
Of course, tanks and watchtowers are children’s toys compared to armed drone technology. In Montgomery County, Texas police have just added a weaponized drone to their arsenal.
The ShadowHawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), a $300,000 piece of equipment made by the Texas-based Vanguard Defense Industries, was recently purchased by the Montgomery County, Texas, sheriff’s department with a DHS grant. The 50lb drone, capable of traveling at a top speed of 70mph, can be equipped with stun baton beanbag launchers and an XREP Taser, which is a wireless Taser projectile that can be shot up to 100 feet away to deliver neuromuscular incapacitation, or electric shock, to immobilize its target.
Montgomery County Sheriff Tommy Gage told reporters, "We're the only sheriff's office in the state that's going to have a piece of equipment like this.” Actually, they’re the only department in the country to possess a weaponized drone like the ShadowHawk. Thus far, the ShadowHawk has only been used by the military in Afghanistan and East Africa for counterterrorism operations.
While Gage assured reporters that the drone would not be armed and would only be used to maintain public safety, the ACLU and other civil libertarians remain skeptical. They have raised concerns about the potential for violations of privatcy as well as the drone’s ability to be armed.
Montgomery County might be the first and only law enforcement agency equipped with a weaponized military drone, but given the rapid acceleration of militarization of local police department arsenals, it may not be the last.