Photo from Ferguson, Missouri
As promised after the riots and “unrest” in multiple locations in the last ten months in the United States, the Obama White House announced that the program that allows for transfer of military surplus items to local police departments will have less to offer the LEOs.
On the chopping block:
- tracked armored vehicles
- grenade launchers
- ammunition of .50-caliber or higher
- some types of camouflage uniforms.
To be made available to SOME departments after they certify and promise to use it responsibly with permission from local government:
- tactical vehicles
- riot equipment
This information comes via a report titled “The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.” It is part of a project the Administration has been working on for some time. Obama had this to say about the report and the bans.
“We’ve seen how militarized gear sometimes gives people a feeling like they are an occupying force as opposed to a part of the community there to protect them,” Obama said during remarks in Camden, N.J. “Some equipment made for the battlefield is not appropriate for local police departments.”
No one is going to argue that, however there seems to be some disconnect between what the Obama White House is describing about police sentiment and what the police are actually saying. From Politico:
“We’re doing these things because we’re listening to what law enforcement is telling us,” Obama said.
…“So we’re going to prohibit equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments,” he said, while for other items, the administration would ensure officers have appropriate training.
James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, on the other hand, said:
“The issue of militarization has been really kind of exaggerated almost to the point that I don’t recognize it at times. The vast majority of the equipment that civilian law enforcement gets from the military is administrative stuff or defensive in nature.”
In addtion, Pasco told Politico:
“The FOP is the most aggressive law enforcement advocacy group in Washington, and we will be at our most aggressive in asserting the need for officer safety and officer rights in any police changes that are to be effected,” Pasco said.
He said in particular he objects to a measure that would require police departments to get permission from city governments to acquire certain equipment, including riot batons, helmets and shields, through federal programs.
“We need to only look back to Baltimore to see what happens when officers are sent out ill-equipped in a disturbance situation,” he said. “Because you don’t like the optics, you can’t send police officers out to be hurt or killed.”
Pasco is hoping to have a meeting with White House officials this week to discuss the changes in the program.
The surprise announcement of the paper and its recommendations came in Camden, New Jersey where Barack Obama was touting the strategy and plan to “help” local police departments by spending $75 million to buy 50,000 body cameras and get more officers on the beat.
Reaction from liberal lawmakers was positive and from civil rights advocacy groups measured. Across the board, comments were about appearances rather than actual effective safety for police officers and the public they serve.
How optics are going to make any of us more safe is a matter not talked about.
Writer’s note: this move by the White House may well be the latest in bringing local police under federal guidelines. See “While We Weren’t Watching: Obama Reveals Plans For Nationalizing Police Without Being Obvious About It” from March for more details.