No more playing war on citizens with federally funded military-style equipment for local police. So says President Obama. Police need to have a “guardian”, not a warrior, mind-set about their communities.
In an effort to create trust between police and the communities they serve, President Obama is taking a number of steps based on a report released today. One of those steps is to prohibit the federal gifting of some military-style equipment to local police, such as “tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, and large-caliber firearms.” It will also limit the federal gifting or funding of military-style equipment such as “armored vehicles, tactical vehicles, riot gear, and specialized firearms and ammunition.”
In order to be eligible to get military-style equipment, the agencies will have to commit to “training on community policing, constitutional policing, and community impact.” Furthermore, they must commit “to respect and uphold community members’ civil rights and civil liberties…”
Read the details on the “Prohibited Equipment List” from a White House Fact Sheet entitled “Creating Opportunity for All Through Stronger, Safer Communities” sent to us from the White House Press Secretary on Monday:
Equipment Working Group Final Report:
In addition to the work completed by the Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a separate federal interagency working group—led by the Departments of Justice, Defense and Homeland Security – has now completed an extensive review of federal programs that support the transfer of equipment to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies. On the basis of that review, the working group developed a series of concrete steps to enhance accountability, increase transparency, and better serve the needs of law enforcement and local communities. The President has directed departments and agencies to put the working group’s recommendations into practice and continue to partner with law enforcement and local communities during the implementation process. The working group report is available HERE.
· The working group developed a unified list of prohibited equipment that may not be acquired under any of the various programs. This list includes tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, and large-caliber firearms.
· The working group developed a unified list of equipment that law enforcement may acquire only in accordance with new and more rigorous controls. This controlled list includes armored vehicles, tactical vehicles, riot gear, and specialized firearms and ammunition.
o Uniform Acquisition Standards: Across all programs, the transfer of equipment on the controlled list will require the consent of the appropriate local civilian governing body (e.g., City Council, County Council, Mayor) as well as a clear and persuasive explanation of the need for the equipment and the appropriate law enforcement purpose that it will serve.
o Training and Protocols: To receive such equipment, law enforcement agencies must commit to have in place “general policing” training standards, including training on community policing, constitutional policing, and community impact. Agencies must also agree to protocols on the appropriate use, supervision, and operation of such equipment.
o Required Data Collection: Law enforcement agencies must collect and retain certain information whenever such equipment is involved in a “significant incident.” Upon request or during a compliance review, the law enforcement agency must provide this information to the federal agency that supported the equipment’s acquisition. This information will also be made publicly available in accordance with the law enforcement agency’s applicable policies and protocols.
The report is based on an Executive Order that President Obama issued back on January 16th of this year, “Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition”, the purpose of which was to “improve Federal support for the appropriate use, acquisition, and transfer of controlled equipment by State, local, and Tribal law enforcement agencies”.
The New York Times reported this morning that administration officials explained that this is exactly what it looks like:
The ban is part of Mr. Obama’s push to ease tensions between law enforcement and minority communities in reaction to the crises in Baltimore; Ferguson, Mo.; and other cities.
This is but one step among a list of recommendations in order to improve the relationship between police and the communities they serve, including a body-worn camera pilot program, an adherence to “Constitutional policing”, and more — these recommendations will be implemented by October 1, 2015.
These policies aim to keep both police and citizens safer, and to foster a sense of trust between police and the community. They are also meant to ensure that the civil liberties of citizens are not met with military-style equipment designed to intimidate citizens, as we have increasingly seen around the country after 9/11, when the Bush administration expanded efforts to arm local police, leading to a militarized, but untrained and unregulated, police force.
Protecting the civil liberties of citizens should be a huge issue in every election. Republicans, even the Libertarian leaning, like to use fear to justify assaults on liberty. In the wake of shame-inducing patriotic language used to silence dissenters, our country has allowed our police to be given military-style equipment with no limitations as to the usage, and so it was used against citizens.
This is yet another example of why regulation is actually necessary in order to protect individual freedom.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.