The flow of news obscures some smaller, but significant events, such as Donald Trump’s decision to override an Obama administration rule and return the flow of military surplus to local police agencies.
This is the abused program that put needless armored vehicles and heavy firepower in the hands of local police.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who’s never seen a Trump decision she didn’t like, naturally cheered.
Her release said in part:
The gear recycled through this program, which would otherwise be scrapped can be repurposed to help state, local and tribal law enforcement maintain public safety and reduce violent crime.
“President Trump is once again taking action to assist our local law enforcement officers,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “By repurposing this gear that would otherwise be scrapped and many officers would not otherwise have access to because of limited budgets, law enforcement agencies, including those across Arkansas, will be able to better protect citizens against dangerous gangs and criminals, respond to mass shooting incidents and assist in the event of devastating natural disasters.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the change in direction at a police gathering today. Police cheered. They mentioned a cheaper supply of protective gear. On the other hand:
Civil rights activists were upset about the restoration of the weapons program. Vanita Gupta, the former head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department in the Obama administration, said in a statement, “These guidelines were created after Ferguson to ensure that police departments had a guardian, not warrior, mentality. Our communities are not the same as armed combatants in a war zone. It is especially troubling that some of this equipment can now again be used in schools where our children are sent to learn. … Most in law enforcement understand why these guidelines and this approach to policing are critical to rebuilding trust with the communities they serve, especially communities of color, and also to reducing the risk of violence in our communities.”
We wrote in 2014 about a tool to track gear shipped to local agencies.
ALSO: The ACLU of Arkansas weighed in:
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas today condemned President Donald Trump’s promised executive order allowing the federal government to give police departments certain military equipment—such as grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons, and armored vehicles—through the Department of Defense 1033 program and other federal programs.
President Barack Obama had stopped the federal government from providing these weapons and vehicles to police through the 1033 program and others in a 2015 executive order.
A 2014 Freedom of Information request by the ACLU of Arkansas revealed local law enforcement agencies in the state had obtained more than $23 million worth of military equipment through the DOD’s 1033 program, including 19 mine resistant tanks, 898 rifles, and 4 hydraulic rams.
Rita Sklar, ACLU of Arkansas executive director, had this reaction to the president’s executive order:
“Weapons of war have no place in our neighborhoods or in the hands of local police officers, especially when the federal government provides no oversight or accountability for this inventory or its usage. Encouraging local law enforcement agencies to use military-grade weaponry against their own citizens does nothing to improve safety or strengthen the relationship between communities and the police. We urge local law enforcement agencies in Arkansas to refuse to participate in this dangerous and counterproductive program that puts our communities at risk.”