President Obama will announce on Monday a proposal to provide $263 million in funds over a three-year period to outfit 50,000 police officers across the nation with body cameras. The president is also expected to issue an executive order in which federal agencies will review and track the amount of military-grade weapons they provide to local police departments. This is largely in response to protests that have occurred in and around Ferguson in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death. Images of police units moving through streets in armored vehicles caused widespread concern over the militarization of law enforcement.
Regarding body cameras, this is also a concern that protesters have asked to be addressed since Brown’s death. A petition was submitted to the White House to create the Michael Brown Law, which proposes that all state, county and local police officers on the street be required to wear body cameras. The petition collected over 150,000 signatures, which led to a response from the White House. Essentially, the response to the petition revealed that this was something that would be looked at in more depth and addressed in the near future. It appears that the future is now.
The executive order that Obama will issue also creates a “Task Force On 21st Century Policing,“ which will be led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and professor Laurie Robinson. The group will report to the White House within 120 days regarding the best practices for community policing and interaction. The task force will utilize research already conducted by the Justice Department. The major focus for this panel will be to find ways to build public trust of law enforcement within communities.
Per the White House’s fact sheet, the task force will do the following (LEAs means law enforcement agencies):
Develop a consistent list of controlled property allowable for acquisition by LEAs and ensure that all equipment on the list has a legitimate civilian law enforcement purpose.
Require local civilian (non-police) review of and authorization for LEAs to request or acquire controlled equipment.
Mandate that LEAs which participate in federal equipment programs receive necessary training and have policies in place that address appropriate use and employment of controlled equipment, as well as protection of civil rights and civil liberties. Agencies should identify existing training opportunities and help LEAs avail themselves of those opportunities, including those offered by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) and the International Association of Law Enforcement Standards and Training.
Require after-action analysis reports for significant incidents involving federally provided or federally-funded equipment.
Harmonize federal programs so that they have consistent and transparent policies.
Develop a database that includes information about controlled equipment purchased or acquired through Federal programs.
Obama’s executive action regarding military-grade weapons being provided to local police departments will put in place better tracking of these kinds of surplus equipment. A report by the White House found that the vast majority of surplus equipment given by the Pentagon and other federal agencies to law enforcement wasn’t military grade. Essentially, police departments were given office supplies and furniture most of the time. However, the Department of Defense did provide local law enforcement with over 5,000 Humvees, 600 aircraft, 600 tactical armored vehicles and nearly 100,000 small arms.
One of the main issues protesters around the nation have wanted addressed has been police accountability and the militarization of local law enforcement. By pushing these executive actions and funding proposals, President Obama is doing what is necessary to make sure positive change occurs.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).