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Ban Lifted

President Trump lifts ban on military gear for police officers

Emily Schoen, Editor-in-Chief

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The Trump administration will unveil a new plan to reduce the limits on a controversial program that provides local law enforcement officers with the surplus of military gear, which would mark the end of a policy set in place during the Obama Administration.

In 2015, President Barack Obama issued an executive order prohibiting the transfer of a host of equipment, including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons and camouflage uniforms following the controversy of “militarization” of police as a response to the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

“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. “It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.”

President Donald Trump will sign a new executive order rescinding Obama’s directive. Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the policy change during a speech presented at the annual Conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee.

“(W)e are fighting a multifront battle: an increase in the volume of crime, a rise in viscous gangs, an opioid epidemic threats from terrorism, combined with a culture in which family and discipline seem to be eroding further and a disturbing disrespect for the rule of law,” Sessions said, describing his plans for policy changes at the Justice Department recently. “The executive order the President will sign will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence and lawlessness to become a new normal.”

Civil rights groups quickly disagreed with the equipment policy, saying the guidelines put in place during Obama’s term were critical to rebuilding trust with communities of color.

“These guidelines were created after Ferguson to ensure that police departments had a guardian, not warrior, mentality,” said Vanita Gupta, former head of DOJ’s civil rights division under Obama and who now leads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Our communities are not the same as armed combatants in a war zone.”

The National Fraternal Order of Police applauded the news. Chuck Canterbury, the group’s president, that FOP has been working to withdraw Obama’s restrictions since the day they were announced.

“These guidelines were created after Ferguson to ensure that police departments had a guardian, not warrior, mentality,” said Vanita Gupta, former head of DOJ’s civil rights division under Obama and who now leads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Our communities are not the same as armed combatants in a war zone.”

Congress originally launched the “1033 program” in 1990 as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allowed the Defense Department to transfer surplus hardware and equipment to state and local law enforcement to be used in “counter-drug activities.”

The recycled gear equipment the police agencies would not normally be able to afford and the original program resulted in the transfer of more than $5.4 billion worth of gear taking place between the 1990s and present time.

Armored vehicles and military gear were used in the 2015 mass shooting that took place in San Bernardino, California.

A document from the Trump administration discussing 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.”

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