Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ proposed private militia is dangerous.
The reason: The current Congressional investigation into the Capitol riots that occurred in January, combined with the links between Trump administration officials and some members of Congress, should alarm Floridians concerned about DeSantis’ plans for creating a police force that would report directly to him.
As background, in early December, DeSantis announced plans to create a Florida State Guard of 200 civilians who would give him “the flexibility and the ability needed to respond to events in our state in the most effective way possible.” He did not elaborate on what kind of events that could include, but he did say his guard would “not be encumbered by the federal government.” To fund this particular police force, DeSantis is initially asking for $3.5 million from the state legislature to train and equip them, according to CNN.
Giving DeSantis the funding and authority to create a police force accountable only to him is a dangerous mix of partisan politics and policing. It has extraordinary potential to be abused and smacks of militarizing a civilian force that is not publicly accountable.
It also is the type of organization that has served every dictatorship in the 20th century. Police forces accountable specifically to politicians have been used to cause political violence, intimidate average citizens, and extend authoritarian political will to the general population. In short, private political police forces, especially those proposed by a blatantly partisan governor, cannot coexist in a democratic society.
Private State Police Forces Are Essential to Dictatorships
DeSantis’ proposal also could cloud responsibilities and accountability in the chain of command between the Florida National Guard, local police, and state investigative agencies. His proposal also does not mention why this state guard needs to be insulated from oversight and accountability from the federal government.
Would it be another private state militia operating independently of existing state police and local forces? What has the federal government done to Floridians that necessitates a separate policing agency responsible to a Republican governor?
In addition to the obvious political motives, the Florida State Guard would also be expensive and unnecessary. Currently, Florida has 47 state police agencies, about 100 county police forces, in addition to the police forces in almost every sizeable municipality. There are also specialized police forces for colleges, universities, school districts, airports, native tribes, and railroads.
The main difference between all these police forces and DeSantis’ proposed force is that each existing one has a specific mandate, jurisdiction, budget, and chain of command structure in place. Most importantly, they are all subject to civilian oversight and accountability. DeSantis’ plan does not mention any oversight or public purpose.
DeSantis’ Plan Could Follow the Trump Coup Attempt
As the Congressional investigation into the Capitol riot shows, top Trump staff members coordinated with civilian mob organizers. At the same time, they also planned to deploy the District of Columbia National Guard to defend the Capitol rioters but were delayed for about six hours by top commanders at the U.S. Defense Department, according to the AP. During that crucial period of inaction, rioters broke into and ransacked the Capitol and searched for elected officials.
Given DeSantis’ links with Trump, and because Trump is a Florida resident, the ex-president could easily influence how any Florida State Guard is deployed and what overt or covert activities it would undertake. DeSantis would be a willing participant in these plans.
DeSantis already has shown his anti-Covid virus positions. He has downplayed the virus and DeSantis has used lies and propaganda to intimidate educators, push a far-right agenda, to pursue a hard, right-wing line to perpetuate voter suppression statewide.
DeSantis is also not above using anti-Semitic messages. When DeSantis was running against Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum, DeSantis showed his true colors: he adopted the classic Republican message. In this piece of campaign literature from 2018, DeSantis warns voters: “Don’t let Michael Bloomberg and George Soros control Florida!” (See bottom of photo.)
Why would he use Bloomberg and Soros in his literature?
These are buzzwords for Jews, which is odd since south Florida has a large Jewish population. But, for DeSantis and Republican followers, this was a comforting message.
From legal, political, administrative, public safety, or financial perspective, DeSantis’ proposed Florida State Militia should be recognized as a dangerous scheme that comes at a perilous time for the nation. Florida residents should wake up. DeSantis is a wild partisan with no regard for voter rights. His private police force would execute his right-wing schemes.