On Monday, the White House announced new restrictions on federal programs that supply local police forces with military-style equipment, after a report was released from President Obama’s “Task Force On 21st Century Policing.”
The Hill reported that after four months of study, a Cabinet working group tasked by President Obama has come to the conclusion that local law enforcement will be banned from acquiring eight categories of military supplies through federal funds, including “grenade launchers, tracked armored vehicles, armed aircraft, bayonets, and guns and ammunition of .50 caliber or higher.”
The Washington Post noted that other equipment, such as tactical vehicles, explosives and riot equipment, “will be transferred only if local police provide additional certification and assurances that the gear will be used responsibly.”
In order to obtain equipment including drones, Humvees and flash-bang stun grenades, Politico reported that local police departments will have to be approved by a civilian governing body, such as a city council, and they will have to provide a “clear and persuasive explanation for why the controlled equipment is necessary.”
Among other recommendations, the report from the task force suggested that research conducted to “evaluate the effectiveness of crime fighting strategies” should specifically look at the “potential for collateral damage of any given strategy on community trust and legitimacy.”
The report also recommended that law enforcement agency policies for training on use of force should “emphasize de-escalation and alternatives to arrest or summons in situations where appropriate,” and should “mandate external and independent criminal investigations in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.”
The Department of Defense Excess Property Program, or the 1033 program, which supplies the military gear to local police forces, captured the nation’s attention in 2014, when local police in Ferguson, Mo. responded to protests, by using military-style equipment including armored vehicles and flash grenades, against American citizens.
While new limits are being set on the 1033 program, The Hill noted that the White House has “stopped short of eliminating the program,” due to the report’s claims that the equipment “enhances the safety of officers” who are responding to dangerous situations.
Investigative journalist Ben Swann discussed the root of police militarization in Dec. 2014, on an episode of Truth in Media. Swann described the federal program as one that “provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.”
Watch the full Truth In Media episode on the Root of Police Militarization: