Trump Rolls Back Ban On Transfer Of Military Equipment To Law Enforcement Agencies

from the police-statesmanship dept

As part of his ongoing effort to reverse everything President Obama ever did, President Trump will be rolling back the previous administration’s 1033 program ban. The program allowed local law enforcement agencies to help themselves to Defense Department equipment — often paid for with federal grants — as long as they said the magic words (terrorism/drugs) on the application.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who led the campaign for the program’s reinstatement, outlined the President Trump’s new executive order Monday in an address at the annual meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union.

The administration’s action, first disclosed by USA TODAY, would restore “the full scope of a longstanding program for recycling surplus, lifesaving gear from the Department of Defense, along with restoring the full scope of grants used to purchase this type of equipment from other sources,” according to a administration summary of the new program recently circulated to some law enforcement groups.

“Assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be re-purposed to help state, local and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime.”

Attorney General Sessions loves rolling things back. This will give police departments access to mine-resistant vehicles, grenade launchers, and firearms, which should “assist” them in fighting the Drug War 1980s-style and/or pitching in with ICE’s efforts to pitch migrants back over the wall Trump can’t seem to get built.

This is prime law-and-order stuff. Trump has made it clear law enforcement is on the right side of history. Everyone who doubts or criticizes cops is simply wrong. A ban put in place as a reaction to militarized police responses is being reversed because no one up top cares how police are perceived. AG Sessions has already killed off federal civil rights investigations of local law enforcement agencies. Now, police will find it easier than ever to dude up as war-fighters, rather than easily-identifiable public servants.

As Radley Balko pointed out on Twitter, Obama’s rollback didn’t put a huge dent in military gear acquisitions. But it did attempt to head off further development of law enforcement’s “us vs. them” mentality by making it a bit more difficult to look and act like an occupying force, rather than law enforcement agencies. Balko notes plenty of gear can still be obtained from other sources, like the DHS, state agencies, and donations. But the ultimate point of the ban was to reduce the gap between public servants and the people they serve — something explicitly noted by Obama’s law enforcement guidance task force.

The Task Force on 21st Century Policing, chaired by former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a former assistant attorney general, called on law enforcement officials to “minimize the appearance of a military operation” when policing mass demonstrations.

“Avoid using provocative tactics and equipment that undermine civilian trust,” the task force urged.

The previously-banned equipment also included tracked armored vehicles, bayonets and grenade launchers.

Trump’s ban reversal sends the opposite message. Combined with his public statements, proclamations, and executive orders, the future of policing will make cities and towns feel like occupied territory and turn citizens into civilians.

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Comments on “Trump Rolls Back Ban On Transfer Of Military Equipment To Law Enforcement Agencies”

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60 Comments
hij (profile) says:

Out of sight out of mind

Politicians care more about how things look than about what is happening. It was bad in the days when people got bent out of shape when it was made clear that the thin veneer of the happy life in your town was nothing more than a charade. Now in the days of the Internet, trying to keep up appearances is not just silly but also dangerous.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

C’mon. Be optimistic.

Sure, during the campaign, Trump repeatedly urged the roughing up of protesters. You know, back when he was still expected to “act more presidential” once the primaries were over.

And sure, a month ago he encouraged police to rough up suspects and not worry about injuring them. And followed it up by declaring that Nazis are “just a side.” And now he’s sending more military equipment to the police.

That may seem bad, but I for one take the optimistic view: The President of the United States is a stupid, childish nutjob whose insecurity won’t let him allow anything Obama did to stand. This is about rolling back another of Obama’s executive orders.

radix (profile) says:

It seems to me that people have forgotten the difference between Nationalism and Patriotism. Patriotism is supporting what a country (supposedly) stands for, whereas Nationalism is supporting what a country actually does, whether that is in agreement with its ideals or not.

i.e. "Dissent is patriotic" vs "Support the President no matter what."

"Law and Order" is at a similar crossroads right now. The Order part can be easy, but you have to erode the foundations of the Law to do it that way. The harder, long-term way to support Order (peace and stability) is to increase respect for the Law. The President is taking shortcuts here, at the expense of the citizenry.

If one wanted to actually restore Law and Order (in a literal sense) they must first restore Order to the Law.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Part of the restrictions put in place by Obama included a ban on camoflauge and the requirement that police paint vehicles with a non-military color. These restrictions existed, in part, so police officers could change their mindset from “soldiers in a war zone” to something far less militaristic.

Trump reversed these restrictions because Obama put them in place, that much I know. What worries me: He might have done it for a far more sinister reason—even if he believes turning police departments into paramilitary groups is what the United States “needs” to preserve “law and order”.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Mispec? That's funny.

The funny thing is that most stuff that’s been depicted in pictures decrying this policy are stuff that you could buy yourself from US Cav or your local gun show.

You’re probably better off with the equipment that is NOT milspec. Most of the civilian stuff is better. Even actual soldiers and marines buy the better civilian stuff when necessary (and possible).

Even Cher was getting in on this act at one point.

It’s not just “bad optics”. It’s unnecessary.

Anonymous Coward says:

What was banned?

.50 cal. weapons. The police were not getting machine guns, but .50 caliber anti-sniper rifles. Sniper scopes (which make shooting more accurate, we want less accurate shooting? Bayonets, which the military doesn’t use anymore. Grenade launchers, which police use to shoot tear gas/smoke. Camouflage utilities, which I guess look much worse than black uniforms.

I guess the optics look bad, but the issue is not what cops carry but what they do with them. Then again, politicians always look to do things that look good but don’t really do anything.

Banning military equipment won’t make anything better if cops still have the mindset that they can do anything they want and the use of overwhelming force is the 1st thing they think of.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

According to coverage I heard on the radio today (NPR), of the various things banned from sale to police forces under the now-rescinded order, there were only three which any police force had ever purchased under that program:

* Tracked vehicles – i.e., tanks and tank-style armored personnel carriers, et cetera.

* Grenade launchers.

* Bayonets.

The other things which were banned by the order reportedly included things like armed aircraft, but also reportedly no police force in America had ever obtained such a thing through the 1033 program. Other things – such as camouflage gear – reportedly were not covered by the prohibition.

If that’s not the case, I’d be interested to see citations, if only so that I can be sure I understand the facts accurately.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The law is for thee

And Obama’s crime policy was the exact same thing. The things he didn’t want enforced didn’t get enforced. Same with Bush, same with Clinton.

That is the problem with allowing presidents to do this, yeah, it is great when your guy or gal is in the White House, but when the elections turn, you get something you really don’t like.

Too bad, the law of the land should be the law of the land. If you don’t like the law, work to change it, ignoring it doesn’t work.

Personanongrata says:

Combat Patrol in Podunk USA

Trump’s ban reversal sends the opposite message. Combined with his public statements, proclamations, and executive orders, the future of policing will make cities and towns feel like occupied territory and turn citizens into civilians.

How does the US governments 1033 program (ie military gear for local police) benefit the average citizen?

What need is there for local police departments to be issued military weapons, military comm-gear (eg Stingray/DRT box) and armored personal carriers?

If the local police would like to play army they can enlist in the military.

Police officers should reflect the community they patrol and thus be attired appropriately as professional law enforcement officers not geared up as soldiers on combat patrol militarily occupying a foreign nation in constant fear for their lives with itchy trigger-fingers.

When you dress like a police officer you act like a police officer.

When you dress like a soldier on combat patrol you act like a soldier on combat patrol.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would imagine there are residents in certain parts of Chicago wouldn’t mind having more of a police presence, a heavily armed presence.

You can stay in your gated community with your private police and feel safe, but there are places that really depend on the police, not that you keyboard justice warriors would know about.

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem isn’t military equipment in the hands of police, it is the improper use of the military equipment.

Just follow the fucking Constitution. I am conservative, but if the Constitution is followed, everything works.

That means cops have to stop fucking up with minorities. That means the NSA/FBI/LEO’s have to stop their illegal surveillance.

That means that antifa is prosecuted for their actions (although if you start following the Constitution I think they start to go away.

That means that bigots stop illegal activities.

We have a document that is sort of old, but if followed, stops a lot of problems. Why don’t we try that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Always hilarious to hear liberals whining about police having guns too.

Always hilarious to see conservatives not understanding that their little pop guns won’t be worth a shit when facing a police force armed with military-grade weapons.

Then again, you are the party of the uneducated.

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