You may recall a few years back, particularly during the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore, that liberals were screaming bloody murder about police showing up equipped with (or riding in) military equipment. This took the form of everything from assault vehicles to weapons to body armor and riot gear. That program was partially squashed back in 2015 by President Barack Obama, even though it meant that a lot of surplus equipment was being trashed instead of repurposed to get the maximum bang for the buck (if you’ll pardon the phrase) out of the taxpayers’ dollars.
Now we’re in for another policy reversal, as President Trump is reportedly moving to restore the program in full. (Associated Press)
The Trump administration is preparing to restore the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies under a program that had been sharply curtailed amid an outcry over police use of armored vehicles and other war-fighting gear to confront protesters.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press indicate President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order undoing an Obama administration directive that restricted police agencies’ access to the gear that includes grenade launchers, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms and ammunition.
Trump’s order would fully restore the program under which “assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be repurposed to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime,” according to the documents.
Police unions including the Fraternal Order of Police and other law enforcement organizations have been pressuring the White House to make good on Trump’s campaign promises about law and order and restore the program. So given his usual stance on such issues, there’s not much of a surprise here other than how it took more than six months for hm to do it.
Of course, when USA Today (among other outlets) got hold of the story they were quick to play up the idea of how terrible this program was.
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.
I remember how back when the ban was announced I found myself wondering how often a local police department would actually have need of a grenade launcher, but these days I’d have to say that nothing is really off the table. Everyone seems to be focusing on protests and the police response to “peaceful protesters” but those aren’t the only times such gear has come in handy. Some criminals are arming themselves with high tech weaponry and even body armor in some cases. (James Holmes was decked out in full armor when he shot up a movie-theater in Aurora, Colo.) When the cops were ambushed in Dallas a while back they had to fight their way into a very secure, concrete parking structure. They eventually prevailed with a robot, but some additional military gear could have come in handy then as well.
But let’s get back to those “peaceful protesters” again. Have you seen the Antifa folks decked out with helmets and their own versions of riot shields? (John had more on that this morning.) The more of these confrontations we see, the more violent some of them become. The cops, particularly in Berkeley, appeared to be totally overwhelmed and stood down, and that’s not the first time it’s happened.
If this is something that law enforcement feels is a good investment and will help them do their already dangerous jobs more effectively, I say go for it. I’m sure a string of lawsuits will follow, but that’s just the nature of the nation these days.