Letter to the Editor: ‘Red Dawn’ St. George

OPINION – I vividly remember watching the 80’s classic movie “Red Dawn” as a teenager. Even to this day I recall the shock of seeing a tank, an armored personnel carrier and troops walking down the street in a small western town in America. I still get chills thinking about that scenario actually playing out in my country.

So imagine my surprise when I saw the pictures in a news report of an armored personnel carrier and troops on the streets of St.George; no, they were not the Russian and Cuban troops depicted in Red Dawn. These were actually our local militarized police out to play with their new toys – courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security or some other Federal agency.

According to the story, the St. George Police Department and their SWAT team were responding to a disturbance involving a man with a handgun and, according to the police at the time of the story, no arrests were made in the incident.

This leads me to ask a few questions: When did a man with a gun (who apparently wasn’t even arrested) warrant  a response of (judging from the published photos) at least six SWAT team members, a full sniper-team, 7 officers and … wait for it … a fully armored tank? The only thing missing was air support.

What happened in America that the police (who used to be called “peace officers”) feel the need to respond with a tank in your ‘hood, supported by officers that look more at home in Iraq or Afghanistan than sleepy little St.George. I mean, really guys, what’s up with the full-on “battle rattle” that usually only accompanies a soldier who is headed into a hot combat zone?

What’s up with the urban camouflage? Sniper teams? A Tank? This is St.George, UTAH – not Iraq.

Look, I’m the first to say I don’t want to see anyone hurt, I know policemen have a dangerous job and I respect them, but a tank guys? You are going up against a man with a handgun for crying out loud, and you bring a tank? Whatever happened to “protect and serve?” When did it turn into “search and destroy?”

Now this brings me to another question and back to Red Dawn; why do our local police even have a tank? Why are we “comfortable” with a local police force that brings a tank to a “handgun battle?” Who is paying for this equipment and what are the strings that come with accepting such hardware?

Where will this lead if local police respond with a tank to incidences like this?

What is the difference between these troops on our streets and the one’s in Red Dawn?


See any similarities?

Many readers may think I’m overreacting; however there still exists something called the Posse Comitatus Act.

The Posse Comitatus Act forbids the U.S. Military from engaging in law enforcement activities in America, it was passed in 1878 towards the end of Reconstruction to limit the military from enforcing the laws of the land. It is a good thing and bulwark against the military enforcing its will on the general populace.

One of the ways around the Posse Comitatus Act is the recent trend of militarization of the police.

Who would have even have believed 20 years ago that the SGPD would have a tank, or even need one?

Think back 20 years ago, would it have been difficult to distinguish a SGPD police officer from a U.S Army soldier headed into combat then?

The question we should ask ourselves is, do we really need sniper teams, combat-ready “police” and tanks on the streets of small town America, and given the rapid militarization of the police departments over the country where will it logically end?

I know that many will decry this as another article that is critical of our police, and that “officer safety” is a primary concern. It is not my intent to malign the police; I am an outspoken advocate of local police and a supporter.

However, I don’t wish to wake up one morning with a tank, militarized troops, and a sniper team on my block, not in the freest country on earth ……….

Think about it.

Submitted by:  Jason Smith

Ed. Note 9:30 a.m. This letter was submitted with a photo and bio. St. George News advocates faces and names to opinions and included it as a Byline.  It apparently has given the misperception that this writer is a staff writer with St. George News and though he has contributed as a writer years ago, he is not currently so.  Therefore, we are reverting the Byline to our generic “Letter to the Editor.” As always, opinions submitted are those of the writer, not of St. George News. St. George News neither directs nor controls opinion pieces.  Although St. George Police Department was invited to comment, it declined to do so.  It should be noted that arrests were made in the incident that prompted this opinion letter, and St. George News will be publishing a follow-up story on the incident in due course.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Posted in Opinion / ColumnsTagged , ,

39 Comments

  • Carol May August 14, 2012 at 6:52 am

    We’ve been away from the St. George area for 7 years with the intention of returning when my husband retires in 3 years. I expected some change but not in this direction. Have you all lost your minds….? I guess I don’t want to move back there after all.

    • Not a Whiner August 14, 2012 at 7:05 am

      To whom are you speaking in reference that ” we have all lost our minds” ? Have all the residents lost their minds? Have the SGPD lost their minds? Has the author of the article lost his mind? Please help me with this before I lose my mind. Thanks

      • Carol May August 14, 2012 at 8:57 am

        The answer is all of the above. I wonder at a population that rolls over and eagerly accepts a police state “for their safety” or because the government must know best. We have seen what happened with tazers across the country — that device that was supposed to replace lethal force but is now habitually used — multiple times mostly — on any person who just annoys a police officer. The desire to exercise unrighteous dominion over others runs very deep.

        Are the streets of St George so filled with large scale violent crime now that the police must opt for armored vehicles and dress themselves like an occupying force…? Just wondering…

      • Hthorsley August 14, 2012 at 9:10 am

        I suppose he’s referring to “the whole contry”

  • Wes August 14, 2012 at 7:02 am

    Great article, I couldn’t agree more.
    Thanks

  • D. Riggs August 14, 2012 at 7:12 am

    I was in North Hollywood, California in the late eighties when two armed bank robbers ‘outgunned’ the police in a vicious firefight. The lesson learned was that those responsible for public order should always have the technical and tactical advantage. Now on the news, we read about mass shootings and bombings conducted by suicidal and homicidal people or groups. We can’t really expect the police to go in under-equipped to these unknown situations to protect our safety. St. George has the same needs as any other city or town when it comes to security. Long gone are the “Mayberry” communities where Deputy Barney Fife carries a single bullet in his shirt pocket, for when it’s needed.

    Whether it be tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, blast suits, assault weapons or specialized urban-warfare training, I think law enforcement should be given ALL the tools to do their jobs!

    • Jo Mick August 14, 2012 at 8:24 am

      I couldn’t agree more! The only reason that this article was even submitted was because no one WAS hurt. Had someone (a civilian, an officer, whoever) indeed been hurt or killed, this person (and many others) would have been extremely upset that our local Law Enforcement DIDN’T do more, DIDN’T have more equipment, resources, ect. What people do not understand, is that when Officers respond to these types of calls, there is often so much information being misconstrued and blown out of proportion, they don’t know exactly what to expect. Ever heard the saying “better safe than sorry”? I would like to go out on a limb here and say that this applies….

  • Firefly August 14, 2012 at 7:20 am

    It is truely sad and a shame that this so-called self described “reporter” who is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force CANNOT distinguish between a tank and an amored personel carrier. The question begs to be asked: where is the gun turret, where is the machine gun mounted, and were are the grenade launchers, and the tracks on this vehicle? A TANK!?!?!! Come on Mr. Veteran of the U.S. Air Force Jason Smith. Aahh…maybe thats the problem, NOT U.S. Army, but an Air Force vet. That explains it. And if some of y ou may think this is nitpicking, please reread the article again and count the times Mr. U.S. Air Force Veteran mentions a “tank”. Come on STGNews, this is about as bad as the wannbe reporter who reported on the last local MMA fight at the Dixie Center in May. Are Dallas and Morri on vacation?

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde August 14, 2012 at 7:45 am

      Note that Jason has submitted this as an opinion piece; a letter to the editor. Instead of nitpicking the details of armored vehicle nomenclature, try seeing the bigger picture of what a militarized police force portends.

      • Plamp4 August 14, 2012 at 9:09 am

        It’s not militarized. Swat teams are there to handle the things that get police officers killed. Why do people care if they wear “urban camo” is this not an urban environment?. Is there not a need for them to be less visible when approaching a dangerous situation? Quit with the automated cop hating and see that their lives are just as valuable as yours. You are naive if you can’t see the need for this type of team. You would think a reporter “Hyde” would see situations where this is needed.

        By the way… is this the same Jason Smith who ran for mayor in hurricane and lost to the current mayor (who is a complete idiot and everyone can see it)

        • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde August 14, 2012 at 10:01 am

          Commentator, not reporter. The problem that arises when the line between police and military forces is blurred is that cops begin acting like soldiers. They have very different jobs. Soldiers use overwhelming force to destroy an enemy. Police are to use minimum force to gain control of a situation so due process can occur.

          • Jo Mick August 14, 2012 at 10:53 am

            I am confused….. How are the lines between Police and Military being blurred here?? I am honestly curious… Is it appearances, the fact that the St. George Police Department chooses to have the members of their SWAT team wear Army ACU’s?? Is it the fact that people are too ignorant to know (or learn) the difference between an APC and a tank? Really, I would love to know….. The SWAT team personnel are not here to shake hands and kiss babies, they are here to take down immediate threats and protect innocent civilians and other Police officers in the fastest, safest and most effective way possible. Correct me if I am wrong…..

          • Firefly August 14, 2012 at 11:32 am

            We ALL ARE commentators also. Police need the advantage to get the job done as peacefully as possible. Just as radio talk show hosts need to keep the “dead air” off the air.

  • Jeremy C. August 14, 2012 at 10:22 am

    First of all Saint George is not a small town anymore and has grown very large with new people moving in from all over the United States. Any issue or problem can arise in this city or southern Utah. The economy, like job lost and no money has played a big roll across the United States over the years. Some people have fallen into depression or other unstable problems that could make them dangerous and act different because of bad changes in there life. Also some people can just lose it and go crazy and hurt and harm others. Its all over this world and we cant stop it, it doesn’t matter what city you live in BIG or SMALL it can happen anywhere, even in the middle of the freeway in the middle of the desert someone can go crazy. Like highway patrol officers in the US can deal with basic traffic stop on the freeway and it turns out to be drug trafficking, that can turn into a bad situation. But again anything can happen anywhere. There have been many Police Officers that lost there life in the line of duty because of a gun big or small and even a knife, and left there family’s in tears. Remember in this article “You are going up against a man with a handgun for crying out loud, and you bring a tank?”, get it right first, it’s not a tank its an armor truck I don’t see a tank turret or tank tracks. I see an armor truck that helps protect our officers from being hurt or killed. But if someone has a gun to do harm there is no telling what they could do, you don’t know if the person with a gun is unstable, or if they are going to try and kill as many people as possible. So for the officers to protect themselves and others they are going to deal with this situation in a SAFE matter. The swat team is going to be brought in with there armor car to deal with the situation. The article quoted “Whatever happened to “protect and serve?” When did it turn into “search and destroy?” the swat team is protecting and serving by trying to protect others and themselves in an armor truck, not search and destroy, its called being SAFE. Another thing that needs to be looked at for this article are that guns have changed over the years and became more powerful and the same thing goes with bullets that can go through vest and kill an officer. High power rifles and bullets are easy to get and can get into the wrong hands, so for our local police department to play it SAFE is not bad at all. I really think that a police officer would love to go home alive rather than dead, so let them do there job SAFE to protect themselves and others. Also for the swat team to have a sniper team is very good, what happens if someone has a high power rifle in a parking lot and is shooting at everything insight like people and buildings. Now with a sniper on hand he can take care of the situation by taking the threat out, remember that’s protecting and serving. Also by having an armor truck for this situation, officers can get in close to do what they need to do safe.

    Look at incidents across the United States like the Los Angeles bank robbery, I remember watching that as a kid live on TV and watching some guys in full body armor and full automatic guns trying to kill police officers and people around them. I Remember seen a police car pull up to one of the gunmen and the gunmen open fire and shot up the police car taking all the windows, tires and frame out etc. Lucky the officer was not killed during this but almost died. The way the situation ended up being taken care of was because the LAPD used a armor truck from the bank and also going to local gun stores to get high power rifles so they can match up with the bad guys, because there handguns were not helping them at all. Another incident that could happen is the Colorado move theater shooting or even a school shooting, again you never know what could happen in this world, even someone from out of town can do this in a small city. They can be passing through and decide to rob a bank or shoot up a store or mall.

    So for the police officers taking extra precaution to keep his or her team safe and others around them, I support it 100%. If I see the armor truck rolling down my street I am fine with it, because I know our officers are dealing with the situation SAFE by protecting themselves from being killed and getting close to the situation so it wont spread out. So for the people against the swat team or armor car, please grow up and understand the situations in this world, this is life and life has changed. Violence has became worse over the years everywhere. Because without our local police taking care of the situations that we have today in a safe way, the siutaion could go bad and levae others hurt or killed. Let the police do there job please.

    Thanks

  • KKKKK August 14, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    To those of you who agree with this article, wait until you have some crazy gunman shooting up the movie theatre you are at or shooting up your kids school and then see if this is such a big problem. Criminals are violent. Had this gunman started running through the neighborhood shooting people and the police arrived in their “tank” then I’m sure it would be seen much differently. There are times when violence has to be met with more violence. For this reason we have police officers and they have to be prepared. As for Mr. Hyde’s usual comment which lacks facts or research, police are allowed to use necessary force, not minimum force to control situations.

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde August 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      Perhaps “minimum necessary force” would be a better way to put it. Either way, police are not to be the stormtroopers of our society. They are to go exactly as far on the force continuum as is necessary to gain compliance. Their job is to bring suspects to justice, not to destroy the enemies of the state.

      • Tank Lover August 17, 2012 at 8:14 am

        I think those “tacticool” 5.11 pants you wear to the Wonderbar are an escalation of force.

        • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde August 17, 2012 at 9:28 am

          It’s mildly flattering that you’ve been checking me out, but I’m happily married. (wiggles wedding ring)

  • KKKKK August 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    And an armored vehicle suddenly makes them stormtroopers???

    • Bryan Hyde Bryan Hyde August 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm

      It’s curious how defensive some people get when the militarizing the police is mentioned. Don’t hyper-focus on the APC and consider the bigger picture instead. Why are police forces assuming a paramilitary appearance and approach to law enforcement? Police are increasingly being used to protect the interests of the state, while viewing the public as a commodity to be managed or as a potential enemy. We used to call them peace officers, but they are looking more like an occupying army these days. You do realize that this has happened in other nations before, don’t you? Tyranny never comes all at once. It is methodical and incremental in its approach. But a growing separation between a government and its citizens is a strong indicator that it’s getting closer.

  • tyler August 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    It may seem right to jump and overreact at this story of a tank in SGPD’s possession in this small, but urban city, St. George, Utah. But I’m not surprised. Infact if you all stop and think, and realize our government is more advanced than any of us US citizens by what? 10 years? All i can think is, they must know something we don’t. People aren’t stocking up their food pantries and buying ammo for nothing. Perhaps armageddon really is on the doorstep sooner than we may give credit for….Afterall, December 2012 is fast approaching (no pun intended)

  • bkbk August 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me mindless and pointless articles that this website allows. One positive is I can always count on reading articles here written by people who obviously have no grasp on reality. Thanks Stg news for the entertainment.

  • Sam August 14, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Any Nation that would sacrafice liberty for security shall lose both and deserve neither- Ben Franklin.
    This was an excellent story written very fair, the Author gave plenty of respect to all officers in general, To many of you bemoaning this fellow I suggest you reread the story the Author is asking questions does this look like something out of red dawn? or if you look deeper what he is questioning is do we really need to trample on our constitutional rights and liberty to make a job easier for someone. Big brother already has so called “probable cause” which in its self has cost the lives of many innocents.
    Take for example the horrible mishap in Ogden awhile back what was it one officer dead and two wounded when they used military tactics to break into a mans house with only probable cause, but there is more to this story then what the media lets on, this same militarized taskforce shot and killed an elderly man a year earlier who tried to defend himself and home with a golfclub from what he believed to be home invaders when they broke into the wrong house that they had a warrant for (most likley a “probable cause” warrant which is unconstitutional). Its not hard to see the chain of dominos if you open your eyes we are being policed out of our liberties, please research a little bit and you will see that the department of homeland security gave this tool of oppresion to our law enforcement and not just ours, larger cities law enforcement have been given mobile armored pill boxes what does a policeman need with a pillbox?
    Let me finish up by asking if the military police break down your door and shoot your son, your duaghter or even your parents because they got the wrong address will you still sing their praises?

  • Big A** Bob August 14, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    OMG, here we go yet again, stgnews.com’s finest editors delusionally referring to Utah’s 5th largest city and also one of its metropolitan areas, Saint George, as a “sleepy small town.” Um, what, like 3 homicides nearly in a row last winter? cold rape cases on the area’s bike trail system, countless armed bank/pharmacy robberies to date, hi-jacked plane at the airport in the middle of the night by a man who killed his girl in Colorado, landing us on national headlines…Yeah, what a sleepy small town!

  • Regardless August 14, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    The SIZE of a city/town does NOT matter. It’s the PEOPLE in a city/town that matter. Bad PEOPLE doing bad things, or good PEOPLE doing bad things do not discriminate the size of a city/town.

  • LOL! August 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Can’t catch me, SGPD, I’m out in the ‘burbs, Santa Clara, Washington or Ivins that is!!

    • MisterMister August 14, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      While the St. George PD may not be able to reach you due to matters of jurisdiction, these other areas have their own police forces. If necessary, those agencies with SWAT capabilities will answer the call to action. As well, the Sheriff, or the “County Mounties” as I like to call them, are also SWAT-capable. One way or another, they may still be able to get you.

      And this post serves no other purpose than to be a buzzkill.

  • Gregg August 14, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    I find it funny that STG News didn’t want their name anywhere near this story. The “reporter” even sent in his photo and bio so that it could be used as a real story and not an opinion.
    Way to watch your rear-ends STG news.

    As for the overwhelming force….the guy wasn’t harmed. So excessive force wasn’t used. He didn’t even get a punch in the face. (which I believe should be a requirement for anyone that causes such a scene.)

  • *Former LA Model* August 14, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    I’m from LA and I just moved here to the area because it was actually the perfect size for me-not too small and not too big. The mall is a bit small and sleepy, yet I was intrigued actually to find I still had many familiar shopping options as I did in Los Angeles. Now to the point, a tank on the local PD may be a ‘lil overkill.

    • Jo Mick August 14, 2012 at 8:57 pm

      “Former LA Model” obviously looks haven’t gotten you far in life. Why don’t you let the grown ups have a talk, and stick to what you obviously do best, shopping. And hey, maybe you should try to stick to the topic at hand and actually read the articles before you go posting idiotic comments on them. And for the last tiime, The St. George Police Department does not have ANY sort of ‘Tank’ in their possesion. Come on people!

  • how'boutsomeresearch August 14, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Since no one brought it up – if you check the bookings – you will see that someone was arrested at the address that was mentioned in the first article. That article even said **At this time no arrests have been made**

    While I understand where the whole “overkill” assessment has been made – Can we just be thankful that no one was hurt and that it did end peacefully? God forbid the outcry that would happen if things went the other way……

  • Switch Hats August 15, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    I don’t understand what all the drama is about…When the ambulance is called on a medical call they don’t get accused of over kill by bringing all of their gear and equipment. Half of the things they take into a medical call don’t get used! What about firemen sending all the engines they can to your house when it is on fire? You would want them to send ladder trucks and all the engines they could to put out your fire not just one engine!!! Why aren’t there any complaints about that? When there is someone shooting a gun I sure hope the police send all the tools they have to help out even if they don’t end up using them!!! Help me understand the difference…

  • Jen August 16, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Unfortunately we will trade our freedom and liberties for a false sense of safety. I appreciate the hard work of police officers but I don’t agree with all their tactics – tactics that have cost officers lives and innocent citizens who were protecting their children when officers broke down the door of the wrong home. The toys are fun to play with I’m sure but should never be brought in first on scene. Officers know the call to dispatch is not always accurate. By the way, no tank is going to stop the guy who shoots 70 people in a movie theater before the shooting. He was arrested outside after the damage was done. It’s not the officers fault they can’t arrive that quickly.

  • C L M August 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Mr Smith, I’m sure that if your family is ever being held captive by a felonious man toting a gun you can prearrange that they just send a single officer over to ask this man to please stop. This is the real world and for me, if it is my neighbor shooting a gun I want the whole department. To protect and serve does not mean to protect and serve criminals. They are there to protect and serve me, the law abiding tax paying citizen without regard to cost or by any means, police over presence. Let criminals take note if you are a felon in St George who is known to carry a weapon, our police will show up in force with numbers and any equipment needed to preserve the lifes of every officer there and the general public. Bring out the armored personal carrier ( it is not a tank) and make a big show, let the other criminals know this is how the police will come for them if they don’t change their ways. I support our Police department and I support the families of these officers that expect them to be home after their 10 hour shift. Mr Smiths letter to the editor shows a level of paranoia that he might want to talk to his doctor about or at least stop by the St George police department and have them show you what they do and see they are just regular men and women with a passion to preserve your freedom not hinder it.

  • Tank Lover August 17, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I know it’s been said before but I was rolling on the floor when I saw how the author compared the APC to a tank. That’s like calling a Cessna 152 an F-16 in terms of battle capabilities. Most tanks I am familiar with are tracked vehicles with reactive explosive armor. Most tanks are equipped with primary and secondary weapon systems. The primary being a 105mm howitzer round and the secondary being some sort of crew served weapon. I double the author would know what a crew served weapon is since he served in the air force but to educate him, it’s an automatic weapon like a .50 cal, Mark19 or 240G.

    The APC pictured in the article has no weapon systems. It’s only intended purpose is to safely deliver SWAT team members to a known threat. They can also use it to egress from dangerous scenarios and provide cover. Oh……wait for it…….there were some pretty menacing lights mounted to the top of this “tank”. And that “urban camo” OOOOOOOOO, I’m shaking in fear of the government.

    This is just another article meant to agitate the black helicopter crowd.

    • Gunther August 17, 2012 at 9:47 am

      There is a distinct difference between a tank and a howitzer. The tank shoots a 105 mm cannon, but the self propelled M109 Howitzer shoots a 155 mm “howitzer” round. I’m not positive, but a typical tank does not shoot a howitzer round.

  • Tank lover August 17, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    You are correct. And I noticed that sgpds APC has neither attached to it to kill civilians.

  • Markus August 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    The police do a thankless job for very little pay. Until you have walked a mile in their shoes you should not be so quick to criticize what they do.

  • THOMAS August 20, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Y’all are fools if you don’t constantly scrutinize what the government does because technically the police represent the government not you. And any federal aid comes with strings attached. It’s wholly unconstitutional for the our local police force to be getting money and equipment from the Feds. This is NOT a good thing.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.