President Trump is preparing to reverse an Obama administration executive order that ended the transfer of surplus military equipment to police departments in American cities. Obama initiated the ban after the battlefield-style response to rioting in a St. Louis suburb three years ago. The Trump plan would once again allow armored vehicles, large-caliber weapons, ammunition and other heavy equipment to be re-purposed from foreign battlefields to America’s streets.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to address the annual meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police, the country’s largest police union, and he may relay the policy changes while there.
According to an administration summary recently released to some law enforcement groups, the Trump administration’s actions would restore “the full scope of a longstanding program for recycling surplus, life-saving gear from the Department of Defense, along with restoring the entire range of grants used to purchase this type of equipment from other sources. Assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be repurposed to help state, local and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime.”
The FOP and other law enforcements groups have pressed for a reversal of the Obama ban. They have argued that military equipment is needed, especially in cash-strapped communities to more effectively respond to unrest, riots, and terrorist attacks.
Obama argued, after the violence in Ferguson, MO, that the armored vehicles and heavily armed police cast them as an “occupying force” that deepened the divide between law enforcement and the community.
“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like they’re an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said in announcing the ban in 2015.
The previous surplus sharing agreement, known as the “1033 program,” was created by Congress nearly 30 years ago as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. It was originally intended to assist local law enforcement in drug investigations. The program was expanded in 1997 to include all local law enforcement operations including counter-terrorism. Since then nearly $5 billion in gear has been transferred to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.
“Much of the equipment provided through the 1033 program is entirely defensive in nature … that protect officers in active shooter scenarios and other dangerous situations,” the Trump administration proposal says.
What do you think about the Trump administration lifting the ban that Obama initiated through executive order? Should our military be sharing equipment with our local police forces?
Credit: USA Today