Ronan Farrow Concocts New Police Industrial Complex

Ronan Farrow is at it again. On the August 14 edition of Ronan Farrow Daily, MSNBC’s favorite Hillary Clinton prodigy tried to blame the outfitting of local police departments with military-style gear, as exemplified in the police reaction to the recent racially charged protests in Ferguson, Missouri, on evil “defense contractors.” He asked his guest Radley Balko, author Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces “how much of” the militarization of police “is due to defense contractors profiting off of this ability legislatively of the Defense Department to purchase to the point of surplus?”

Earlier Balko explained that President Reagan “off the cuff, instructed the Pentagon to start making surplus military equipment available to police departments across the country.” He added it was not until the 1990's, and the institution of section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act that the “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition” to local police forces to aid in fighting the War on Drugs became official policy. [See video below. Click here for MP3 audio]

Balko responded to Farrow’s out-of-left-field question by saying that while “there may be an argument there that the Pentagon is overbuying due to the influence of military contractors,” “I don't know that Northrop Grumman is lobbying to buy surplus stuff so that it can be given to police departments.” The surplus gear is not even manufactured new, and Balko stated “I would point out that for the most part this surplus gear, it’s is sitting in a warehouse somewhere.”

The Washington Post journalist did continue that the Department of Homeland Security has “has been giving grants to police departments to buy brand new equipment, military grade equipment. And what that's given rise to is an industry that exists solely to build this new equipment in exchange for these checks.” Balko claimed “there are very legitimate concerns about what you might call” a new “police industrial complex.”

Luckily for Ronan, it seems all was not totally lost in his efforts to promote the left wing’s favorite ambiguous enemy, the ever elusive military industrial complex.

See transcript below:

MSNBC
Ronan Farrow Daily
August 14, 2014
1:34 p.m. Eastern
1 minute and 42 seconds


RONAN FARROW: The New York Times had a really striking graphic showing the surge of military equipment. And this was a few months ago before this was a big story to police departments over the last eight years due to the end of the war in Iraq. It's maybe hard to see on screen there for the audience. We’re going to put it online as well. This kind of advanced equipment that you see the icons of there really flooding the nation. How much of this, Radley, is due to defense contractors profiting off of this ability legislatively of the defense department to purchase to the point of surplus?

RADLEY BALKO: Well, I mean, there may be an argument there that the Pentagon  is overbuying due to the influence of military contractors. But I would point out that for the most part this surplus gear, it’s is sitting in a warehouse somewhere. I don't know that Northrop Grumman is lobbying to buy surplus stuff so that it can be given to police departments. I think the 1033 program is disturbing in a lot of ways. I'm just not sure that that's the most pressing criticism. I will say, however, that since September 11th, the Department of Homeland Security has been giving grants to police departments to buy brand new equipment, military grade equipment. And what that's given rise to is an industry that exists solely to build this new equipment in exchange for these checks. And here, you know, that industry is inevitably, if it hasn’t already, going to set up lobbying offices in Washington to make sure the program continues and expands. And there, I think, you know, there are very legitimate concerns about what you might call a police industrial complex.

FARROW: It's very difficult politically too, to roll back that police industrial complex, obviously, politicians going before their people saying we want less equipment to protect you is not the most palatable messaging.

Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.