Trump Signs Executive Order To Allow Militarization Of Local Police: Report
Following the killing of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri in 2015, Americans were disturbed by the images of heavily armored local police in camouflage uniforms firing tear gas and pointing high-caliber military weapons, including grenade launchers at unarmed protesters.
The terrifying display local police forces deploying military-style gear and tactics against civilians, even in situations that appear devoid of any real threat to officers’ safety, sparked a nationwide outrage. In response, President Barack Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the transfer of surplus military gear to local police agencies.
Americans were relieved. But that didn’t last long.
The Trump administration unveiled a new plan Monday morning to roll back limits on the controversial program and allow the “militarization” of local police agencies, marking the end of a policy implemented during the Obama administration, USA Today reports.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 prohibiting the transfer of a host of equipment, including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons and camouflage uniforms following controversy over the “militarization” of the police response to unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said at the time. “It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.”
Military equipment is used against an enemy. So if you give the same equipment to local police, by default you create an environment in which the public is perceived as an enemy. We live in a democratic country, and we believe the American people have the right to go out and exercise the right to free speech without fear of intimidation by police officers looking like soldiers.
Congress originally launched the so-called “1033 program” in 1990 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allowed the Defense Department to transfer surplus hardware and equipment to state and local law enforcement for use in the failed “war on drugs.”
A Trump administration document describing the policy shift says that it “sends the message that we care more about public safety than about how a piece of equipment looks, especially when that equipment has been shown to reduce crime, reduce complaints against and assaults on police, and make officers more effective.”
What’s less clear is how this gear changes the psychological dynamics of policing and crowd control. Is it true, as many people are arguing online, that “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” — that is, that simply having military gear will make police more likely to act in an aggressive manner toward civilians.
What do you think?