Militarized police are here to stay
by Sam Rolley
President Barack Obama and Congress have moved to assuage calls for the demilitarization of American police by paying lip service to the issue without making any real effort to curtail the amount of battlefield equipment being deployed to American streets.
The White House, with the Monday release of its review of police militarization, announced plans to conduct more oversight of the military equipment acquisition programs and require more thorough training for local police receiving wartime equipment.
A new executive order also calls for “after-action analysis reports for significant incidents involving federally provided or federally-funded equipment.”
In addition, Obama is forming a “Task Force on 21st Century Policing” designed to “promote effective crime reduction while building public trust” and examine the use of military equipment on the nation’s streets.
As far as the White House is concerned, militarized police are here to stay. In fact, the administration’s actions, though cleverly disguised as a response to populist calls for demilitarization, mostly further institutionalizes the military-to-police equipment pipeline.
Administration officials have attempted to quiet talk about police militarization by repeatedly claiming that the military vehicles make up only a small percentage of the equipment benefitting local law enforcement involved in the surplus programs. In case you’re wondering, the small percentage still equates to a lot of military vehicles on U.S. streets.
From the president’s “Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition” report:
Examples of controlled property provided include: 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night vision devices, 5,235 high mobility, multi-purpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs), 617 mine resistant ambush protected vehicles and 616 aircraft.
A White House official, in a conference call with reporters Monday, said the president was complying with the wishes of Congress.
“Our assumption is Congress has an intent here to support local law enforcement with the use of this kind of equipment,” the official said. “Our focus is on what kind of protections are in place to make sure it’s used properly and safely.”
Congress recently killed the bipartisan Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, which would have limited the transfer of military equipment to police. The bill was introduced by Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and had the backing of 45 co-sponsors, including Republican like Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan, Walter Jones of North Carolina and Tom McClintock of California.