Tag Archives: Local Police

White House Sets New Limits On Federal Distribution Of Military Equipment To Police

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:


Feds Donate Thousands of Bayonets to Local Police

The recent political crisis in Ferguson, MO put a national spotlight on police militarization. For years, the Department of Defense has been sending military hardware, leftover from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to local police through its 1033 program. Police departments have been accepting the military-grade hardware, despite its uselessness for purposes of civilian police work, under “what if” justifications. However, after obtaining the items, officials in charge of local police forces have often expanded the scenarios in which military tools are being put to use, resulting in militarized approaches to drug raids and peaceful protests.

NPR recently published an in-depth report on the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, cataloging every military item sent to law enforcement agencies from 2006 through April 23, 2014. Vox pointed out the fact that the cache of weapons donated to local cops included 11,959 bayonets. A bayonet is a spear-like weapon affixed to the end of a rifle that soldiers use as a last resort to gut enemies in close range. While this type of weapon could prove useful on a battlefield, it seems highly unlikely that a police officer could find a justified civilian law enforcement purpose for such a brutal offensive weapon.

The report also noted that 79,288 assault rifles, 205 grenade launchers, 3,972 combat knives, 50 airplanes, and 422 helicopters had been issued to police by April of this year. It is also worth noting that large shipments of weapons have been issued after April of 2014. Vice reported on the fact that grenade launchers have been given to campus police departments.

The controversy over bayonets recently became a political issue in Woodland, CA, after the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services released a report indicating that the Woodland Police Department received 15 bayonets. However, according to KCRA 3Woodland City Manager Paul Navazio claims that the city did not request the bayonets, has not received them, and could not possibly use them. A recent article on BenSwann.com noted the fact that many local police departments have lost track of some of these donated military weapons, which have since gone missing. Navazio did indicate that local police requested knives through the program, which officers intend to use to cut down marijuana plants during drug busts.

NPR‘s police militarization report does not specify which police department received each item, so it is unclear to which localities the nearly 12,000 bayonets were shipped. In response to widespread outrage over the use of military equipment to police America’s streets, the Obama administration recently ordered an investigation into the Department of Defense’s Excess Property program.