How the Police Lost Idaho 

A short news item from 2018

The first indication of trouble was when the Boise Police Department tried to give the Lockheed F-35 back. The plane, nicknamed "Ol' Cec," for former Lockheed lobbyist Cecil Andrus, was one of a batch of F-35s deemed ineffective for combat. They had been donated to city police departments across America for riot control. Due to operating costs, municipalities had placed them on concrete pillars in city parks, next to Sherman tanks and steam locomotives.

However, Boise's F-35 had been kept in readiness in anticipation of Fourth of July minor-in-possession riots at Sandy Beach, in the shadow of the strategically important Lucky Peak Dam. Raul Labrador, Idaho's smiling authoritarian governor, had declared that, "Lucky Peak stands as an example of how vulnerable the city of Boise is to teen rage, who might use its rock fill as weapons when Boise police break up their rainbow parties. We need to worry less about crimes that have happened, and more about crimes that might happen. Anyway, what kind of patriots would give back a $200 million airplane?"

But the Boise Police Department balked at keeping an F-35 in its collection of tanks, armored personnel carriers, mobile artillery units, mini-subs and AH-1 SuperCobra helicopters. In a subsequent news conference, a female police spokesperson stated that, "The Boise Police Department's maintenance budget exceeds the Boise School District's total budget. My kids don't need fighter-bomber protection. They do need a goddam education."

Her words were later characterized as misstatement, and she was sent to serve in a punishment battalion in the War of Alaskan Secession. But the damage had been done.

Police departments in Blackfoot, Wilder, Elk City and Sandpoint insisted they didn't need their F-35s for wolf control anymore. Idaho State University said its F-35 had not had the intended effect on the school's Big Sky football opponents. Idaho Fish and Game said that while its F-35 had been effective in taking out the trailers of isolated poachers, it had created collateral damage during sage grouse mating season. The Blaine County Sheriff's Office, having crashed its F-35 into a Hailey elementary school in a runway-overshoot incident, refused to accept its replacement.

Homeland Security, which had overseen the transfer of the F-35s from the Defense Department to civilian agencies, sent its highest officer to Idaho. Standing in front of a giant portrait of a smiling authoritarian President Jeb Bush, aging Homeland Minister Butch Otter lectured a joint session of the Idaho Legislature, the Idaho Sheriff's Association and the Idaho State Police's Boyz and Girlz Auxiliary.

"Idaho needs to step up for the defense industry," said Otter. "This airplane represents a trillion-dollar investment in technology. It represents the best efforts of defense contractors large and small, from Tacoma to Cape Canaveral, and every place in between. If Idaho refuses this gift from the federal government, the whole system could break down. If we don't fight our enemies at home, we'll have to fight them overseas."

Otter then met with Gov. Labrador, announcing at a joint news conference that Mountain Home Air Force Base was being repurposed as Homeland Security HQ for the entire American West.

"It will be a boon for Idaho's economy," said Labrador. "In addition to 100 new civilian F-35s, we'll get to keep our squadron of A-10 Warthogs, airplanes that actually work. And along with President Bush's executive order establishing the new Boulder-White Clouds tactical bombing range, the expanded base will fill the gap left by the recent collapse of Idaho's tourism-and-real-estate economy."

Then, regrettably, persons unknown covered the Boise Police Department's giant powder-blue MRAP vehicle with stenciled orange graffiti depicting the police as Storm Troopers from Star Wars, an image supplemented by the subsequent appearance, in full-riot gear, of 42 Boise police officers at an out-of-control Chuck E. Cheese's birthday party whose supervising parents had panicked and called 911. At first the BPD tried to make light of the incident, dressing its new male spokesperson in a T-shirt with an Imperial Storm Trooper on the front, captioned, "I Had Friends on that Death Star." But under the persistent questioning of reporters about the use of riot-control gas and rubber bullets on 6-year-olds, the spokesperson broke down in tears.

"I'm tired of my kids asking me if I'm a fascist," he said. "I didn't ask for those tanks or the gas. I've never even ridden in the mine-resistant ambush protected personnel carrier, much less used it to crush cars in a Chuck E. Cheese's parking lot."

The spokesperson said he had joined the force just wanting to protect and serve, but that had become impossible. "We police have the reputation of winning at any cost," he said. "But people need to know that we're people, too. We have kids. You think we want them taunted on the playground just because their parents want to win?"

"Citizens hate and fear the police," he said. "Get them in court, and they'll perjure themselves to protect their fellow citizens. It's an us-against-them mindset. Citizens only socialize among themselves, and if we go into one of the bars where they hang out, we're not welcome. They protect their own.

"We look for bad guys and citizens won't tell us where they're hiding. They sneer at us behind our backs, and they mock us to our faces. 'Don't shoot,' citizens say, even when we're not thinking of shooting them. That really hurts.

"It's a war out there. Is it any wonder that we have to protect ourselves with military equipment?"

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