The Albemarle County-based Rutherford Institute has been warning people for a long time about what it sees as the increased police state in America. The events in Ferguson, Missouri further underlined the concerns. Now, something Virginia State Police are refusing to do has the institute even more worried.
The issue is this: should police act and dress and arm themselves like the civilians they are, or the para-military force that they sometimes seem to be?
Requests to Virginia State Police about the surplus military equipment they've received through the Department of Defense's Excess Property Program, or 1033 Program, were rejected by the powers in Richmond, even though similar inquiries to local departments across the state have been answered. State police say details about automatic weapons and mine-proof vehicles are tactical details that the public has no right to know.
"We've asked a number of police agencies across the United States what kind of, you know, do you have MRAPs, which are Mine Resistant Armoured Protection vehicles, they're like tanks, and questioned why would you have them - usually you cannot - I have never gotten an answer,” said John Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute.
Whitehead says it's all part of police growing dangerously away from their communities.
"Part of it, the psychologists say, there are a number of studies confirmed that when they put on these outfits, the way they view changes, and it's not like the friendly, local policeman you used to have,” said Whitehead.
The introduction to Whitehead's book, “A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State,” says that if James Madison or Thomas Jefferson were brought back to life, they would not recognize this country.
"What I'm telling police departments is come forward, say what you have, give an explanation why you have it and then we'll wrap down that,” said Whitehead.
Until then, Whitehead hopes individuals will remain aware and cautious.
"Freedom starts with you. If you believe in freedom, then you believe in freedom for those who might not want that. You should want to make sure that our Constitution is enforced to the maximum,” said Whitehead.
Virginia State Police say they denied requests to release the number and types of tactical weapons they have because the weapons are for officer safety, not intimidation. They cite an example from back in May, when a Norfolk police officer was killed by a former military member with a high-powered rifle. State police say that kind of crime is the reason for high-powered weapons.
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