Monthly Archives: August 2014

Uncle Trouble

My dad’s older brother, Michael Ward, died on Wednesday. While my dad told me the news yesterday morning, I don’t think it entirely hit me until I saw his obituary, though I had partially processed the idea that the man we knew was largely gone after his massive stroke almost six years ago. Uncle Mike is also the first close relative (i.e. my grandparents and their descendants) of mine who has died in my lifetime, an unusual streak. With that bit of context out of the way, I wanted to share a few memories that I have of him, mostly from when I was a kid.

First up is his mischievous grin, which has something to do with the nickname “Uncle Trouble”. Second, his joking nature, with a touch of sarcastic wit. Third, during family visits, mostly at Christmas or Fourth of July, he always found time to play with us. He taught me to play pool, to play cribbage; he showed me how to shuffle cards properly (with bridging). I suppose that was a mildly corruptive influence? Still a skill I’m glad he taught me.

He was very much into gadgets, and was one of the few grownups I knew in the ’90s who always seemed to have the latest Mac or a nice camera. I remember visiting him once in Chicago, where he was a news director, and being amazed by his TV that could tune 16 stations at once. He was an encourager of my own interest in technology, and was responsible for the infamous Zip Drive photo (by giving me one for Christmas one year). He also played a lot of golf, which somewhat influenced my own interest in the game.

Even after his stroke, I liked sharing pictures with him, and he loved to see them. I ended up returning an old favor by helping him keep his Mac organized and up to date whenever I visited them in DC.

Uncle Mike was always quick to chuckle. I will miss him greatly.

Posted in Life Tagged with: ,

End Police Militarization

I sent the following letter to my U.S. Representative (Herrera Buetler) and my U.S. Senators (Cantwell and Murray), asking them to end the transfer of military surplus weapons and equipment to our state and local police forces. I’m planning to write similar letters to my state representatives, and to our county sheriff and city police department to ask them to end the practice here in Washington, Clark County, and/or Vancouver.

If you are concerned by how military-style force has been used by police in Ferguson, MO and elsewhere, I would encourage you to write something similar to your congresscritters.

This Newsweek article is a good overview of one of the sources of military surplus, the Depatment of Defense’s 1033 Program.

(I made slight edits to the text below, including salutation, for each person I sent it to. You are welcome to use the non-personal portions of my text.)

I am writing to request your support of the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, soon to be introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson, which amends the NDAA to end the so-called “1033 Program” that supplies surplus military equipment to police across the country. I also encourage you to support any similar bills which end the practice of providing (either directly, or funding for) military-grade weapons and equipment to our police departments. Their mission is to “protect and serve”; they are not here to conduct a war against our fellow citizens.

While my letter is directly inspired by the images coming out of Ferguson, MO this week, I have been thinking about this issue since the recent ACLU report on the massive surge in the use of SWAT-style tactics and gear in policing over the last decade. I do not believe we need a militarized police to conduct the War on Drugs, or the War on Terror. More and more people are being injured or killed by police officers conducting their duties as if they are at war, and this needs to stop.

Until we recently moved to Vancouver, my wife and I lived in Cambridge and Watertown, MA. Last April, during the final manhunt for the Marathon Bombers, we lived through the lockdown and saw a massive militarized police presence descend on our neighborhoods. Our local Target’s parking lot became part of the command center for this operation. This show of force felt to me fundamentally un-American, visually like something from a military dictatorship. While it may have seemed necessary, in the end Dzokhar Tsarnaev was captured because an observant citizen noticed that the tarp on his boat was loose. If anything we were blessed that no innocents were accidentally injured or killed during the sweep. Even in this terrorism case, the police could have remained police, and not soldiers.

I do not believe our police departments need leftover MRAPs from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to do their jobs. They do not need to be wearing fatigues or tactical gear, or to be carrying fully automatic weaponry, which only serves to intimidate the very people they are paid to protect. In Ferguson we see such equipment being used to intimidate citizens and journalists, violating First Amendment rights to free assembly and a free press. This is a terrible abuse of state power.

It is not “soft on crime” or “soft on terror” to stop arming our police like they are soldiers; it is a necessary step to end a dangerous encroachment on our fundamental freedoms as citizens. Please help end the militarization of our police.

Posted in Opinion Tagged with: , , , ,

Nicolas Ward

Software engineer in Natural Language Processing research by day; gamer, reader, and aspiring UltraNurd by night. Husband to Andrle
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