On Monday, President Trump lifted Obama-era restrictions on the federal 1033 Program that distributes surplus military equipment to local police departments.
Trump’s executive order speciously characterizes the move as merely “restoring state, tribal, and local law enforcement’s access to life-saving equipment and resources.” In reality, Trump’s action will primarily encourage and subsidize the trend of militarized law enforcement, which does more to undermine public trust than keep police or the public safe.
In 2015, President Obama issued an executive order banning the transfer of certain types of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies and imposed strict requirements for accessing other types of military equipment. In the aftermath of heavily militarized police crackdowns on protestors in Ferguson, Mo., Obama rightly observed that “militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like they’re an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them.”
Nationwide, according to a 2014 Obama White House review of federal programs providing military equipment to local law enforcement, 460,000 pieces of “controlled property” — items on the Department of State Munitions Control List or Department of Commerce Control List — were in possession by local police. This included 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night vision devices, 617 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles and 616 aircraft.
The types of equipment banned from transfer under Obama’s order included things like bayonets, grenade launchers and tracked armored vehicles. For access to other types of surplus property, like Humvees and drones, Obama’s policy required local police to first obtain approval from their respective governing body — city council, county supervisors — and provide clear reasons to the feds for why the equipment was needed.
These reasonable restrictions have now been undone, for…