THE BLOG
09/13/2014 09:07 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Do College Towns Really Need Tanks to Keep Them Safe?

The people of Davis, California don't think so, as The New York Times reports this week. Their police department is returning the Pentagon's gift of a "mine-resistant, ambush-protected" motorized tank (MRAP). Here's what one of these beasts looks like:

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And here's what the Marines say they're good for:

With V-shaped hulls, raised chassis and armored plating, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP) has proven to be the single most effective counter to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Blast-resistant underbodies and layers of thick, armored glass offer unparalleled protection, while all-terrain suspension and runflat combat tires ensure Marines can operate in complex and highly restricted rural, mountainous and urban terrains.

Crazy, huh? Armored vehicles were deployed in Ferguson, and suddenly America wonders what's going on.

I've been tracking this lunacy for about four years when I started noticed a bizarre trend reported in one newspaper after another: even small town police departments had SWAT teams armed with military-grade equipment. These teams were sometimes raiding the wrong house, terrorizing people and destroying property.

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Cops were recruiting from veterans of our most recent wars, being trained by the military, and starting to think of citizens as The Enemy, as I blogged on Huffington Post a few weeks back. And though racism is clearly front and center in Ferguson, the deeper issue, the one citizens in general are finally noticing, is the fact the America has apparently gone to war against itself.

This shift is an enormous change in our republic, and it hooked me enough to make it the centerpiece of my eighth Nick Hoffman mystery Assault With a Deadly Lie. The series is set at a fictional Michigan university. Nick's world of petty academics -- bald men arguing over a comb -- has now been perverted by a dangerous worldview. Even tin pot administrators think of themselves as arbiters of national security and consider opposition treasonous. So this novel of suspense has far more danger and violence than the rest of the series combined: the stakes are much higher than ever before, the outcome deadlier.

I started writing about my fictional college town gone nuts three years ago, and of course, truth almost always turns out to be stranger than fiction. I'm surprised Davis only got an MRAP. Why not weaponized drones?

Assault With a Deadly Lie is Lev Raphael's 25th book.