President Obama to ban military equipment for police departments

Police departments have been able to use federal funds to buy surplus military equipment

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The Independent US

The sight of police officers wearing camouflage and carrying high-calibre assault rifles has become increasingly common in US cities, as many police departments have been able to use federal dollars to buy surplus military equipment, blurring the line between police and soldiers.

But that could soon stop as President Barack Obama will ban federal provisions of some military equipment to local police departments and will greatly restrict access to other equipment, the White House said Monday.

 

The ban comes after a police task force the president created in January recommended that local police departments should not be able to acquire military equipment, such as armoured vehicles, weapons of the highest calibre and camouflage uniforms.

 

President Obama established that task force after recent high-profile incidents – like the police response to protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri last year – revealed the extent of the militarisation of US police. The goal is to restore trust between police and those they are assigned to protect.

News cameras often caught police arriving to protests in vehicles that would not have been out of place on an Army base and showed lines of officers all carrying weapons that far exceeded standard-issue firearms.

US police got expanded access to surplus military equipment shortly after the terrorist attacks on 11 September, 2001 through grants from the Homeland Security and Justice Departments, and transfers of equipment from the Defence Department, the New York Times reported.

Since then, many local police departments have been stockpiling equipment they were not originally meant to have.

President Obama has announced the ban on police access to military equipment to coincide with the release of a report from the police task force, which cited Ferguson as an example of how the militarisation of police can lead to fear and mistrust in the community.

The task force has recommended that local police should “embrace a guardian — rather than a warrior — mind-set to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public.”

 

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