John Oliver on Ferguson: No Police Department Needs Giant Military Vehicles

In the wake of the chaos in Ferguson, MO, the Last Week Tonight team examined the militarization of the police.

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With news out of Ferguson dominating headlines this past week, John Oliver and the Last Week Tonight team used last night's show to talk about a number of highly relevant greater issues – chief among them the militarization of police departments across America.

Military funding for police departments is in the billions, and the weaponry is being requested under the pretense of counterterrorism. Unfortunately, when the "targets" the local police are using giant vehicles to protect are nothing more than pumpkin festivals, that poses a dilemma.

To expand on his point, Oliver referenced a YouTube video featuring two guys in Saginaw, Michigan marveling over an MRAP –a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle – that belonged to their local sheriff's department. The dumbfounded observers could only utter exaggerated exclamations of "damn" and "dude."

"To be fair, that is exactly how they reacted when a Chipotle first opened there," Oliver joked.

But after the initial shock wore off, horror struck one of the men. "Has our city gotten that bad?" he asked.

"Here's the thing: no," Oliver replied. "It hasn't got that bad. Because unless you live in downtown Kabul, there is no practical need for anything like that in your town."

In fact, the vehicles being requested aren't even recommended for use on actual military bases. "The only vehicle that should be tearing up the streets of Saginaw is Chad's souped up Honda Civic."

Elsewhere in the clip above, Oliver talks about racially unequal treatment of community members by police officers and Governor Jay Nixon's insistence on punishing only the community – in the form of a curfew – while the police continue, militarized and unabated.

"I know the police love their ridiculous, unnecessary military equipment, so here's another patronizing test," Oliver said. "Let's take it all away from them, and if they can make it through a whole month without killing an unarmed black man, then and only then can they get their f*cking toys back."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.