Associated Press, August 28, 2017
US police will again have access to high-caliber weapons, grenade launchers, heavily armored vehicles and other surplus military equipment that the Obama administration had limited after critics said its use was militarizing the police and inflaming confrontations with protesters, often in racially sensitive situations.
Donald Trump plans to sign an order undoing the Obama-era directive, the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on Monday told a national convention of the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the groups that have urged Trump to revive the military program.
In 2015, Barack Obama issued an executive order that severely limited the surplus program, partly as a result of public outrage over the use of military gear during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to police.
National police organizations have been pushing Trump to hold to his promise to once again make the equipment available to local and state police departments, many of which see it as needed to ensure officers are not put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks.
An armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
Trump vowed to rescind Obama’s order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.
Sessions has said he believes boosting morale among police can help curb spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street.
Consent decrees were a hallmark of the Obama administration’s efforts to overhaul certain law enforcement agencies, sometimes after racially charged encounters like the one in Ferguson.