A Snapshot of Your Security-Industrial Complex

by 
May 1, 2012

Today, in downtown Oakland, @marymad took a picture of this beast, which was used to intimidate crowds of May Day marchers:

Gavin Aronsen of Mother Jones got this shot of it from inside Awaken cafe (“”Oooooooh,” everyone at Awaken Cafe exclaimed as this Alameda County tank-looking thing rolled by,” he tweeted):

Naturally, you are asking yourself, how is it that a cash-strapped city like Oakland can afford a monster like this? Well, luckily, Dave Gilson of Mother Jones has your answers, flagging and tweeting a request from the Alameda Sheriff’s Department to bypass the competitive bid process and purchase this beauty — from Xe, better known as Blackwater — for the bargain basement price of only $323,000. Lest you think this is an unfair price, our dear Sheriff Ahern helpfully describes the pressing need which requires its purchase:

The vehicle is an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), a tactical type of response/rescue vehicle and is intended to counter modern threats in the urban environment. Acquiring this type of vehicle will enhance the security of Alameda County and the surrounding region by providing the appropriate means of response to critical venues and the evolving threat of terrorism. Moreover, the vehicle’s state-of-the-art multi-layered armor technology providing protection from Improvised Explosive Devices (lED’s) and explosive projectiles increases the safety level of officers often called upon to provide tactical assistance in highly dangerous and volatile situations to the various law enforcement agencies in Alameda County.

When you put it that way, well, of course they should skip over the competitive bid process and just hand the money straight to Blackwater. Only then the question arises: where will the county get that kind of money?

As the honorable Sheriff continues:

“Funds totaling $323,000 have been earmarked from the FY 2008 State Homeland Security Grant Program for this purchase.”

To recap: while Oakland Unified School District is closing five elementary schools to save money — here’s a harrowing account of the meeting where they voted to do it — the Alameda County Sheriff’s department can get over 300 grand from Homeland Security for that stupid thing, just in case Occupy Oakland marchers had some improvised explosive devices up their sleeves, I guess. I heard someone threw a bottle. Without state-of-the-art multi-layered armor technology to protect them, scores of police officers might have been destroyed.

Your tax dollars at work, etc. Or as the Program Manager of the Grants Management Division of the California Emergency Management Agency put it:

“Thank you for your work in protecting California. We look forward to your continued collaboration towards our homeland security strategy and appreciate your cooperation and support.”