Trump Reverses Obama Rules On Law Enforcement Military Gear — Police Militarization

29 August, 2017, 01:11 | Author: Chad Mckenzie
  • Trump wants to lift ban on giving military equipment to police

He says the new approach will boost public safety.

During a speech in Nashville on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration's plan to reverse restrictions for law enforcement on military-grade equipment.

Obama acted amid growing concern by civil liberties groups and Black Lives Matter activists over police militarization. Under more rigorous control, law enforcement agencies were still able to acquire armored vehicles, tactical vehicles, riot gear, and specialized firearms and ammunition.

The program came under review following the heavy-handed police response to riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 and was later curtailed under the Obama administration to restrict the type of equipment local departments could obtain from the military. It gave a tremendous amount of money in funding for local police departments so they could buy armored personnel carrier vehicles and they could better outfit their SWAT teams. At times, they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.

The move, which will see forces supplied with grenade launchers and an arsenal of other high powered weapons, is certain to reignite fears that U.S. police departments are being turned into paramilitary forces. Following the ban, according to the Defense Logistics Agency, the body responsible for overseeing the program, as of November, 126 armored personnel carriers were returned by law-enforcement agencies, as were 138 grenade launchers, and 1,623 bayonets.

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Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers.

Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said the guidelines were put in place to "ensure that police departments had a guardian, not warrior, mentality", and that it was important for law officers not to treat communities as war zones.

"In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left", Trump said.

Lifting the ban is "exceptionally unsafe and irresponsible", said Janai Nelson, a lawyer with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.

"Just a few summers ago, our nation watched as Ferguson raised the spectre of increased police militarisation".

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Nelson said the timing of the president's decision, against the backdrop of unrest in Charlottesville, Va., "reflects this administrations now open effort to escalate racial tensions in our country". It describes much of the gear as "defensive in nature", meant to protect officers. "In the absence of leadership from this administration, state and local governments must create their own guidelines for limiting the acquisition of military equipment, and how it can be used".

Critics said providing police with items like bayonets, grenade launchers and drones had strained police-community relations and led to a virtual arms-race on America's streets.

"Violent crime is back, significantly so", Sessions said.

"I don't think police departments should be asking for 'military gear, '" Urquhart told Buzzfeed News.

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