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.