From my personal point of view, the Obama administration was eight years of calculated assaults on freedom, civil liberties, American exceptionalism, and American influence in the world. One of the very few things I give Obama credit for, other than making it out of the White House by noon on January 20, was his placing restrictions on the type of surplussed military equipment that was transferred to state and local police forces under the Department of Defense’s 1033 program.
The White House on Monday announced new limits on federal programs that supply local police with military-style equipment.
After four months of study, a Cabinet working group tasked by President Obama to reform the initiatives unveiled eight categories of military supplies local law enforcement will be banned from acquiring from federal agencies or with federal funds.
The list includes grenade launchers, tracked armored vehicles, armed aircraft, bayonets, and guns and ammunition of .50 caliber or higher.
There is a “substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items,” which “could significantly undermine community trust,” the group’s report reads.
Other federally supplied equipment, such as wheeled armored vehicles, drones, helicopters, firearms and riot gear, will come with new strings attached for local police to ensure officers are trained in their use and in “community policing, constitutional policing and community input.”
Police must provide a “clear and persuasive explanation” for the need of the equipment and get approval from their local government.
I an sort of old school in this but I prefer my police officers to be police rather than aping the equipment and manners of an occupying power. When you combine military gear with, as my brother, a retired LEO says, the doctrine taught in police academies is that there are two types of people on the street: a$$holes and potential a$$holes; when you dress your police in boots and fatigues and start issuing military weapons, you have no right to be shocked or surprised at what happens next.
We’re at a point where every podunk jurisdiction seems to have a “SWAT” team of some kind. In parts of Maryland, my current residence, SWAT teams deliver failure to appear warrants from traffic court. That is wrong and that is not the way policing in America should work. In saying this, I acknowledge YMMV.
Now the Trump administration has reversed that policy. This is from Jeff Sessions speaking at the 63rd Biennial Conference of the National Fraternal Order of Police (Sessions’s speech starts at 27:45):
Helping law enforcement do their jobs, helping the police get better, and celebrating the noble, honorable, essential and challenging work of our law enforcement communities will always be a top priority of President Trump and this Department of Justice. We will always seek to affirm the critical role of policeoffers in our society and we will not participate in anything that would give comfort to radicals who promote agendas that preach hostility rather than respect for police.
President Trump is serious about this mission. He is doing all he can to restore law and order and support our police across America. And that is why, today, I am here to announce that President Trump is issuing an executive order that will make it easier to protect yourselves and your communities. He is rescinding restrictions from the prior administration that limited your agencies’ ability to get equipment through federal programs, including life saving gear like Kevlar vests and helmets and first responder and rescue equipment like what they’re using in Texas right now.
Some of these programs, like the Department of Defense’s 1033 program that Congress signed into law more than 25 years ago, have recycled more than $5.4 billion in used gear and equipment that taxpayers had already purchased, and made it available for your agencies to repurpose it in the fight against terrorism, crime, and disaster relief. Equipment like helicopters and armored vehicles are also vitally important to emergency and disaster response efforts.
One sheriff told me earlier this year about how, due to the prior administration’s restrictions, the federal government made his department return an armored vehicle that can change the dynamics of an active shooter situation. These are the types of helmets and gear that stopped a bullet and saved the life of an officer during the Orlando nightclub shooting. This is the type of equipment officers needed when they pursued and ultimately killed terrorists in San Bernardino. Studies have shown this equipment reduces crime rates, reduces the number of assaults against police officers, and reduces the number of complaints against police officers.
Those restrictions went too far. We will not put superficial concerns above public safety. All you need to do is turn on a tv right now to see that for Houstonians this isn’t about appearances, its about getting the job done and getting everyone to safety.
The executive order the President will sign today will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence, and lawlessness to become the new normal. And we will save taxpayer money in the meantime.
This is not a surprise. Both Trump and Sessions are very much in the law and order camp and while think Sessions is a super Attorney General I don’t share his penchant for throwing lots of folks in jail without any concern about what the downstream cost is and his love affair with civil forfeiture which is a grotesquely un-American program.
Radley Balko, who even though he’s become an insufferable scold and douchewad since Trump was elected, sums up my objections (minus the obligatory anti-Trump screed). Read the whole thread.
Reversing the Obama restrictions on military gear for cops isn't about protecting police. The restrictions were important, but more about /1
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) August 28, 2017
I’m not sure this makes us safer. I’m pretty sure this is terrible public policy. But the FOP likes it, so there is that.