Why Do Some St. Louis County Cops Wear Military-Style Camouflage Uniforms?

Categories: Police

Author Radley Balko, a long-time critic of what he describes as the "warrior cop" style of policing that is becoming more common in municipal police departments, said in a recent Reddit AMA that wearing camouflage contributes to a "militaristic mindset:"

I think that as bad as the weapons and tactics are, the uniforms might be more pernicious, at least in terms of fostering a militaristic mindset. I'm always baffled at how many cops you see wearing camouflage today. In most cases, they do it because they get the camo uniforms as surplus from the military. They say they're cheaper than conventional police uniforms.

That may well be true, but it just strikes me as wholly inappropriate for domestic policing. When you dress like a soldier, you're predisposing yourself to start thinking like one. And of course, there's really no strategic value, unless you're raiding a forrest (sic).

According to the St. Louis County's website, the Tactical Operations Unit's duties include responding to "hostage negotiations, barricaded suspects, search warrants, and any unusual situation or event that requires the use of specialized training and tactics."

The site also says the unit's duties include "crowd control," which explains why military camouflage-clad officers were arresting Monsanto protesters.

When asked why the Tactical Operations Unit wears camouflage uniforms for these duties, Pleviak says, "It's a safety issue."

He adds: "Would you rather have officers who are trying to resolve an issue be out in a bright orange uniform where they can be seen by everybody and be a possible target to somebody who has already targeted someone else in either a homicide or a robbery or a domestic situation where they're holding a gun to their spouse's head?"

See also: Cop Fired for Shoving Man Head-First into Wall Says He Deserves to Be Back in Uniform

Other units also don the camouflage pants, including the canine unit that, among other duties, conducts drug searches in public schools. As Daily RFT reported last week, a video was made by Oakville High School about its "school sniff" that featured camo-clad officers walking through school hallways with German shepherds looking for drugs.

canine_unit.JPG
via Youtube

But Sargeant Gerald Lohr, supervisor of the canine unit, explains that was just an accident -- his officers usually wear regular brown pants as their uniform, but camouflage when they do their weekly training. Oakville High School happened to call them on a training day.

"When we train, we don't wear our regular police uniforms. We tend to be out tracking in the wood, and we don't want to tear up our duty uniforms," Lohr says.

The topic of police militarization has even inspired the ACLU to start a project to investigate the amount of money and types of military-style machinery used by police departments, including St. Louis County and City. And people in cities around the country, such as Concord City, New Hampshire, have protested their police to not obtain armored vehicles, such as the $360,000 Lenco Bearcat that county police bought in 2012.

Some of the New Hampshire protesters' signs read "More Mayberry, Less Fallujah" and "Thanks But No Tanks!" reported the Wall Street Journal.

But do military-style uniforms and armored vehicles mean the St. Louis County police department is becoming militarized?

Not to Pleviak.

"That's just ridiculous," he says.

Follow Ray Downs on Twitter:

E-mail him at Ray.Downs@RiverfrontTimes.com.

My Voice Nation Help
172 comments
Patman0000
Patman0000

They want to play soldier so they dress up and pretend for awhile, which results in criminal actions committed by them against the Constitution and the peace of the people. Not new, but very dangerous to us. Of course they disagree with folks like me but I know something about wearing combat gear & unless you're in a war-zone, or in combat, or something relevant to actually engaging or about to engage enemy forces, you don't need to be wearing or using military gear or equipment in a civilian agency.

Jon Korty
Jon Korty

Welcome to the police state.

Tara Johnson
Tara Johnson

Because its a militia style police society...they want us to eat monsantos poision...they want to kill us all...so they gotta scare us and arrest innocent people who are just trying to promote health not death...wake up people

Mike O'Connell
Mike O'Connell

Tim - I'm just amused by the choice in pattern when many more effective ones exist. ACUPAT blends in well on gravel and certain paisley couches.

Mike O'Connell
Mike O'Connell

Love how the K9 office from the "school sniff" photo is wearing ACU pattern camouflage. Like that actually blends in with anything.

Jeff Weber
Jeff Weber

yea that will scare the bad guys.

Michael G. Barlos
Michael G. Barlos

"Service" people are predisposed to police work. Since they are trained to use weapons it's only natural for them to go into police work after discharge from military. I don't trust the fuzz nor the vet. Can you say "snapped?" I don't trust anyone I see wearing camo in public. Not even a hat. There's no need to wear camo in public, it should be outlawed in my opinion.

Jason Bright
Jason Bright

The militarising of police forces is happening all over the country, they are getting armored vehicles too that you should only see in a war zone. Also several large metropolitan p.d.'s wil soon be getting drones.

Kristin Scudder
Kristin Scudder

Because they are ex-military. Duh. That's all they hire anymore.

Cary Aye
Cary Aye

Swat team for people holding up signs? That's a threat we need them for?

Adam Usher
Adam Usher

I want my poloce to looks like Robocop. With a gun hidden in their leg and everything!

Dale Proctor
Dale Proctor

Jorge Rodriguez Rodriguez Ruxin, those "pigs" might save your sorry ass someday but I hope they dont! Your a loser SOB!

Michael Kepler
Michael Kepler

So, why is the SWAT team just patrolling around?

Martin Gilbertson
Martin Gilbertson

And shouldn't urban cops wear building camo? Bricks or something?

Dale Proctor
Dale Proctor

Why don't you tell us how you really feel, Eddie Gregs!

Couch Pig
Couch Pig

makes them feel tough when they kick in your door and shoot your kid for holding a butter knife..

Theirry Less
Theirry Less

I don't think it really needs an explanation. If you are an intelligent sort, you should already know.

Kelly Gnerre Taylor
Kelly Gnerre Taylor

Special "Corporate Protection" task force? It makes me angry every time I see this image/ incident, the show of force against a peaceful farmer, wtf?

Jason Rook
Jason Rook

Because they're at war. Guess who the enemy is?

Christian Taylor
Christian Taylor

everything has gotten way of control because people are scared of everything, unable and unwilling to take care of themselves and willing to sacrifice anything to "feel" "safe"

Christian Taylor
Christian Taylor

protect me im just a fat little american that needs to feel safe at all costs

Ed Rook
Ed Rook

It's an intimidation factor, for one thing. Because of federal funding in the billions, state and local police forces now access to weapons that were designed to be used in combat, against an enemy that is also a soldier and armed to the teeth. In my opinion, they do it because they love playing dress up and using their new toys. Unfortunately, people die when they do this, like the 7 year old girl in Detroit who was shot by a SWAT team when they threw a flash bang grenade into her house. Or the Colorado neighborhood that was shut down for 4 hours while police in military gear went from house to house looking for a guy who had stolen a bike from Wal-Mart. Know your rights, people! make them get a warrant.

Kayleigh Vogelgesang
Kayleigh Vogelgesang

Well at least you learned how to spell sergeant right finally. A little credit would have been nice but whatever.

claire76122
claire76122

To the STLMPD and STLCPD - why open yourself to such attacks? You're already fighting an uphill media battle against people who would paint you as bullies with guns and militaristic power jockeys. Why give them ammunition? Pick your battles. Laundry shouldn't be one of them!

Catherine Claire
Catherine Claire

To the STLMPD and STLCPD, why open yourself to such attacks? You're already fighting an uphill media battle against people who would paint you as bullies with guns and militaristic power jockeys. Why give them ammunition? Pick your battles. Laundry shouldn't be one of them.

Tyrone Hill
Tyrone Hill

because they practice looking hard......thanks E-40.

Tyrone Hill
Tyrone Hill

to blend in with the streets and highways.

Kevin Ahern
Kevin Ahern

What do you expect? Monsanto OWNS the SCOTUS. They could have the military there is they wanted it.

James Wright
James Wright

It feels like a police state in north county sometimes, now they look the part.

Michael Daniel
Michael Daniel

The Saint Louis county police are so arrogant, belitting, and hateful. Every time I smile at them they give me dirty looks. They can barely hold the door open for me.. You have a tail light out and like 50 of them pull up behind you... The city police are much more kinder. They nod their heads when I say hi. They love holding the door open for me. They smile.. If I have a tail light out they will be like HEY MAN just wanted to let you know your light is out, have a good night. I don't like the county police and I am a good standing citizen with no record. I have even walked up to the door of one of their stations and they just look at you outside the door for like 5 minutes and eventually come out all cocky to see what you want. If you ask me the city police should be the arrogant one's. They fight ten times the harder crimes than the county will ever see. But it is the opposite. It makes no sense.

Jim Woodfin
Jim Woodfin

To help camouflage them would be my guess.

desguitarjimi
desguitarjimi

Wearing camo is a psychological mind f*ck for the citizens. It is all about intimidation. I used to live in St. Louis County. I am friends with a SOCO police officer. Haven't talked to him in quite some time, but he was a good guy and probably/hopefully still is. I will say there is a STARK difference between the County and City police. The County cops are much more hard ass wanna be's. This wasn't so back in the 70's. However, nowadays I would not want to have anything to do with County cops. They are thugs. Well, most of them anyway.

Patman0000
Patman0000

Police are not militia, that would be you & me, or the American citizens who aren't in the military or working for this POS govt.

Patman0000
Patman0000

Well, that's fine that you have that opinion, but your opinion is absurd too. 1.) Most cops aren't vets. Some are and most that are have no combat experience except for the crap they make up inside the wire. Very few have actual war/combat experience outside the wire, like infantrymen go through. 2.) No LEO should be wearing military camo, period. Not even a legit SWAT team. They want to play soldier, which sounds nice, but they don't want to endure the experience of it either. 3.) Banning clothing like that for us is unlawful & to propose that makes you no better than the pigs you seem to not like. I almost became a cop when I left the military but decided that enforcing unlawful statutes isn't my right to do & it would be breaking my oath as a veteran that I swore once as an active duty soldier to the US Constitution. That & I don't like using force against people to make them comply over what's mostly unlawful codes that the govt wants us all to think is law. What a joke.

Patman0000
Patman0000

Not true. Most aren't vets. Some are in the NG and the ones that are vets have no combat experience mostly. Some do though & those guys are worse than the average pig. As for their TACT teams, SWAT doesn't even compare to a squad of infantrymen who engage enemies often in war & dodge danger everyday. Cops are in a cozy job as most deaths for them are related to their own stupidity, not people shooting them dead or blowing up their crap with IED's. Why they have MRAP's (Bearcats as some call them here) is simple, to reinforce their "authority" to us out here & to intimidate folks from wanting to rebel, in part anyway.

Patman0000
Patman0000

SWAT (police period) are the threat, not those protestors!

Patman0000
Patman0000

Why would any sane person even WANT those "pigs" who are really criminals to come near them or their family??? You must be married to one, are one, related to one or friends with them.

Patman0000
Patman0000

The Constitution/Bill of Rights & Us.

Patman0000
Patman0000

At this point in America, it's too late to say make them get a warrant, it doesn't matter anymore. The 4th Amendment aside for a minute, think about it, cops enforce state statutes, that's their job. Not to serve & protect us, because even the corrupt SCOTUS has ruled about that twice & said it's not their job to do that. Once they enforce the 1st few unlawful statutes, (which there are plenty) and these are local, state & federal statutes, they have lost the privilege of being an "LEO". It doesn't matter if they keep their jobs for years & years & most people worshiping them don't think they're bad guys & so the trend of ignorance is astounding. So when they do get a warrant that is actually justified itself, they're still criminals & that warrant can't be executed by them because of their numerous crimes committed in violation of their sworn oaths to the Constitution & to enforce constitutional laws only! Considering unlawful (unconstitutional/illegal) statutes are NOT laws at all that cannot be legally enforced much less where we have to obey them because we don't, them enforcing & upholding unlawful codes/statutes is wrong as crap. It doesn't take a lawyer to figure this all out either. I'm not even going to get into all of the cops/feds out here using physical force against people daily where there is never any punishment for those crooked badges either.

thelphq
thelphq

Weren't you in the Village People?  I thought I recognized the toaster shades.

Now Trending

St. Louis Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...