Administration's One-Year Experimentation With Reining In Police Militarization Apparently Over

from the good-times... dept

The administration’s brief flirtation with converting occupying forces back into police departments is apparently over. In the wake of the Ferguson protests, the administration announced its plan to rein in police departments which had been availing themselves of used military gear via the Defense Department’s 1033 program. This itself was short-lived. A year later, the administration mustered up enough enthusiasm for another run at scaling back the 1033 program, but it has seemingly lost some steam as Obama heads for the exit.

The images of police greeting protesters with assault rifles, armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and officers who appeared to mistake the Midwest for downtown Kabul apparently was a bit too much. It looked more like an occupation than community-oriented policing — something every administration has paid lip service (and tax dollars) to over the past few decades while simultaneously handing out grants that turned police officers into warfighters.

That’s all off the table now. Two recent shootings of police officers have effectively dismantled the dismantling of militarized police forces.

The White House will revisit a 2015 ban on police forces getting riot gear, armored vehicles and other military-grade equipment from the U.S. armed forces, two police organization directors told Reuters on Thursday.

Shortly after the recent shooting deaths of police officers, President Barack Obama agreed to review each banned item, the two law enforcement leaders said.

That could result in changes to the ban imposed in May 2015 on the transfer of some equipment from the military to police, said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, and Bill Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations.

The law enforcement lobbyists met with the President and Vice President, and it appears Obama has sent the administration’s chief legal counsel to “review” the ban. The law enforcement organizations claim police need greater protections now, even though the recent clustering of officer deaths doesn’t put the nation on track for anything more than an average year of on-duty deaths.

But, while the chance of being killed in the line of duty remains steady, agencies are pushing for a return to pre-2015 levels of military gear, including tracked vehicles and grenade launchers “to deal with riots.” It doesn’t appear that any words were wasted discussing the underlying causes of the protests officers are now facing — none of which will be resolved with increased police militarization. Put someone in war gear and they’re going to be pretty sure they’re in a war, rather than serving the public as a trusted member of the community.

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Comments on “Administration's One-Year Experimentation With Reining In Police Militarization Apparently Over”

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Manabi (profile) says:

Perfect way to ensure more police deaths

Apparently the police are uninterested, and/or unwilling, to learn from the past. Pushing for more militarization, and treating non-police like the enemy more often, is going to result in more attacks on cops.

I guess it’s just too damned hard to do things like treat people with respect. Shooting them’s easier and (for many cops) more fun.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Common greenhorn desire.

It’s a well known phenomenon in military history for inexperienced solders to be eager for their first kill. It makes sense that this would translate to peacekeeping and law enforcement.

Even when the object is clearly not to kill the enemy. (It’s not clear at all.)

Even when the civilians are regarded as a cooperative and not adversarial faction (They’re nowadays regardedmas completely beligerent and antagonistic.)

Evidently we have to experience more stupidity before we see the importance of being smart.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Common greenhorn desire.

Even when the civilians are regarded as a cooperative and not adversarial faction

Baby seals aren’t very adversarial either. Yet a lot of them get clubbed to death each year. Point being, you don’t have to be “adversarial” for some people to want to kill you. I’m starting to think of the police as baby seal clubbers with badges.

Anonymous Coward says:

Put someone in war gear and they’re going to be pretty sure they’re in a war, rather than serving the public as a trusted member of the community.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you! applies here

So if the police decide they need to militantly police citizens…. should citizens militantly resist?

This is self fulfilling prophecy shit right there. The Police are actively fomenting the very trouble they claim they can prevent/avoid with these “Tools”. Sadly, the tools called respect and honor are not among the “Tools” they seek to employ!

A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.

Jean de La Fontaine

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe one of the kitted up police officers could hand a black kid some candy or a flower hidden that was hidden in his war attire. Then just plop that heartwarming picture on the front section of National Geographic or something, and we’ll be able to pretend we’re doing good things on the streets of war-torn America.

Rapnel (profile) says:

Let’s see..

1) The police can shoot you and kill you because of the idea of a weapon. Emphasis on idea.

2) There is this weird penchant where our armed and dangerous branches believe addressing a problem is the same as addressing a symptom.

3) Can someone tell me how equipping police to have a, far and away, superior tactical advantage over the policed does not threaten human and civil rights at every imaginable level at any imaginable moment? I can’t legally purchase the same level of protection. As a bonus, these guys are practically immune to the legal system. They think they are the system.

4) Why do police believe themselves to be bosses? Non-compliance seems to be roughly equivalent to a death sentence. Or justification for near-death beatings, in the very least.

5) Empowering the powerful can only end badly. Empowering arrogant authority only hastens us towards that ending.

6) elif: From whence does this “authority” come?

7) True policemen are rare. Too rare.

I’ve always been afraid of the police, always. I think it’s innate. I think we’re doing it wrong. I think it’s getting worse. And please, for fuck’s sake, try not to fire until you can at least see a gun. Stop using the pussy excuse for being a thug criminal – equal, in every way, to any other.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Need

Police in Baton Rouge have earned the hate that resulted in the deaths of those officers. They give other brothers in blue all of the rights that they ignore for everyone else and then get upset when some people decide to do something about it. It is a horrible situation, but they have only themselves to blame. They investigate themselves and seize and destroy evidence whenever it is convenient. They are the ones who made the area unsafe for officers, not the populace who has been brutalized just like this ever since the slaves were initially brought over.

The cops wouldn’t need the equipment if they were actually a part of the community and not pretending they are above the serfs. says:

Re: Re: Exactly

It shows how dangerously clueless these people are. You treat people like the enemy and they will act like it. This will get ugly again, and they only themselves to blame.

As for Baton Rouge, every time you get word in the news of a cop shooting someone through the act of brutality you increase the inevitability of retaliation, and that is basically what that was.

Armored or not, cops are NOT above the law and if they act unlawfully then citizens have an obligation to resist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Need

Agreed, cops are already bad at using the non-military equipment they are given. They are reckless, negligent, impulsive, and trigger happy. They act without thinking and apparently they have very very bad aim and they can’t tell what’s clearly a toy apart from a gun even while someone is screaming to them it’s just a toy. They apparently aren’t trained enough to use what they already have properly, the solution isn’t to give them even more equipment they aren’t trained to use. Only people trained to use that equipment properly should be the ones to use it.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Need

Yes, I think you’re right. I would take it a bit deeper, though.

Military training consists of a whole lot more than just learning how to use the equipment. It also includes things like what sort of force is appropriate under what circumstances, focused conditioning to make it more likely to keep your head when under fire, how to appropriately handle the presence of civilians, identify friend & foe, etc.

It’s a whole package deal, and is the sort of overall training that police don’t get. I think the notion that giving them military equipment, even if trained on that equipment, is fundamentally flawed.

That One Guy (profile) says:

When all you have is a grenade launcher....

It doesn’t appear that any words were wasted discussing the underlying causes of the protests officers are now facing — none of which will be resolved with increased police militarization.

I think at this point they’ve fallen prey to the ‘Just a little more’ disease, where rather than admitting that hey, the current way of doing something is clearly not working they instead double, triple, and quadruple down, assuming that they just need to do it even more and suddenly it will work.

If police with some military surplus isn’t cutting it and getting people to respect the police, then clearly the only possible response is to give them more military gear. If a pistol isn’t getting them the respect they so clearly deserve then swap it out for a shotgun or rifle, and so on.

It would be a hefty uphill battle at this point but police could actually drastically reduce the problems they find themselves facing such as protests, lack of trust and respect, that sort of thing. Given that doing so would require actions that they have fought stridently every step of the way up till now(accountability, holding their own responsible and so on) that’s not likely to happen any time soon or ever at this rate.

Actions like militarizing the police even more and granting them even more special treatment under the law on the other hand is just going to make things worse, to the point where you really have to wonder if they’ve given up on being worthy of actual respect and figure fear will work just as well.

If that is the case I certainly hope someone influential enough on the police side wakes up and changes things quick, because while you can cow a populous into obedience using fear that only works for so long, and when it fails things tend to be all sorts of messy for everyone, and other than the gun-happy nutters on both sides I don’t imagine many people would care for that in the slightest.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Hollywood Crimefighting

So the standard response to any kind of threat (real or not) is to crank up the weaponry.

That’s the trouble when you pay too much attention to your own film & TV propaganda.

Also the US gun culture has to bear its share of the blame for this kind of mentality, that just bring sufficient firepower to bear and you can solve any problem.

Skeeter says:

Problem, Reaction, Solution

If you cannot see the long-term designed intent in this action, you deserve everything they give you.

Obama banned the military hardware issue after public videos and outcry about ‘black-booted pseudo-military’ masquerading as cops. But, the establishment NEEDS those shock troops in place, so they simply ‘created a problem’, ‘(with the aid of media) sculpted the reaction’ and now they offer a solution. (which was what they started out doing, anyhow)

This isn’t surprising, this is in their game-book. It’s play 1L, right next to resurrection of the 4th Reich.

Whatever says:

It’s about damn time. Now the police can properly put all these non-compliant criminals right where they belong. In jail, or in their mom’s basement so they can whine about it on their social networking platforms and have their data harvested by the NSA. Mmmm, I’m getting nice and stiff just thinking about it. The police are whipping out their big guns and I’m going to whip out mine.

Tim Zerr says:


We have the National Guard for real serious violent riots. The police are in no more danger now than before unless they start increasing their bullying of citizens. This militarization is a set up for more violent conflict between police and the public. And the Mideast terrorists are not invading our homes so the police are not needed for that. They have well trained swat teams that have what they need and the other cops need to learn how to act rather than be given more war toys that they will want to use.

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