President Donald Trump on Monday rescinded an executive order issued by his predecessor, Barack Obama, limiting the amount and type of military equipment that can be provided to the police, a measure the former president took after incidents of police violence against African American citizens in 2015.
The order restores access to “lifesaving” resources and equipment to state, local and tribal security forces, Efe news reported.
Trump signed the order reversing Obama’s own 2015 executive order at the White House.
A few hours earlier, Attorney General Jeff Sessions had made the announcement of the President’s decision at the national convention of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee, saying that the Trump administration had decided to resume the program whereby local police departments may receive surplus military equipment, including high-caliber weapons and grenade launchers.
Trump’s move is intended to “ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence and lawlessness to become a new normal,” Sessions told the audience at the ceremony, who cheered him.
“(Obama’s) restrictions went too far, we will not put superficial concerns above public safety, we will do our best to get you what you need,” said Sessions.
He said that some of these programs have recycled more than $5.4 billion in new and used equipment – including helicopters and armoured vehicles – and allowed it to be used in the fight against terrorism and crime and for providing aid in natural disasters.
In 1990, Congress authorised the Pentagon to provide surplus military equipment to the police to help them fight the drug trade, and – later – terrorism.
Groups from all across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of the police, arguing that the equipment fosters and intensifies criminals’ confrontations with officers.
Obama in 2015 issued an executive order severely limiting the program, in part after public outrage over the use of military equipment during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an African American.
In that situation, police responded with anti-riot equipment and used tear gas, dogs and armored vehicles, even issuing assault rifles to officers, which they then pointed at the demonstrators.