President Obama to Restricts Military Equipment for Law Enforcement

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President Obama took actions to restrict military equipment in a big way this week.

President Obama Places Restrictions on Weapons

On Monday, President Obama announced that the federal government would finally start to restrict its supply of military-grade equipment to local police forces. The change in law enforcement strategy is long overdue. One result is that are less battlefield-style vehicles available to police. Which means, these vehicles are no longer trolling city streets. When they do troll, they simply instill fear in the very people that police departments are supposed to be protecting.

Militarization is Recent

The trend towards militarization of U.S. police forces is a relatively recent one.

Since the mid-1990s, but particularly in the aftermath of September 11th, politicians at both the state and federal level pushed for new laws. These laws intend to better prepare local police departments for terrorist attacks. The idea was that the American people would be safer if they had a local police force that was stronger. Politicians hopes to see police better able to handle larger and more catastrophic events. The plan was for police to prepare for situations beyond the run-of-the-mill crimes that police departments generally see.

One option on the table: buy old military stuff. Politicians allowed local police departments to buy surplus military equipment from the federal government. The hope was by doing this, the police gained preparedness. However, law enforcement now knows the heroism of the 9/11 attacks and also the devastation of Ferguson, Missouri.

As local politicians with “hard on crime” agendas won elections, police departments found themselves with large budgets. Many departments spent this money on extravagant military equipment. Through Program 1033, the U.S. Defense Department’s program to connect police and surplus military equipment, this money found a home. Suddenly, every small town in the United States had a S.W.A.T. team with tanks.

Consequently, the militarization of local police forces led to tension between the police and the very citizens that this equipment was supposed to protect better. These tensions can now be seen boiling over in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, to disastrous effect.

No More Ferguson’s

President Obama restricted military weaponry in order to reign-in the movement of military equipment. In fact, it is a step in the right direction as the national armed forces and local police forces do not need to share devices. Correspondingly, it is clear step in the right direction.

Enforcing laws is a critical piece of the world we live in, but, as the alarming images from Ferguson show, there are ways to do it, and there are ways not to do it. President Obama’s ban against providing local law enforcement with grenade launchers, high-caliber guns, armed aircraft, and armored vehicles is a big move in a better approach to law enforcement. Not only does it govern better, but it pushes police departments to respond to criminal activity reasonably. Reacting with disproportionate force, at best, creates tension in communities. Unfortunately, at worst, it results in the deaths of those who, did not deserve such punishment.

As a staff of criminal defense attorneys, the Kavinoky law firm looks favorably on decisions, such as this one by President Obama, to enforce laws in ways that do not impact those who are not breaking them.

John Devendorf
John Devendorf
John Devendorf is a California barred attorney and graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law. He writes on a range of legal topics including criminal law, immigration, and legal marketing. While he is not a member of The Kavinoky Law Firm, we share his legal insights on topics important to our clients.