We’ve all noticed that our local police departments have become more militarized in the past decade or so. Many chalk this up to the post-911 mindset that calls for a larger and more equipped police force to confront the ever-changing face of domestic terrorism. But recently, folks have started to wonder if police really need all that extra stuff to enforce the law.
A sure sign that perhaps the pendulum has swung too far over in the direction of an overly accessorized police force is that on Monday president Barack Obama unexpectedly announced that the federal government will no longer send certain military items to local departments.
“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people the feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that’s part of the community,” Obama said during a visit in Camden. “We’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments.”
Specifically, the fed will no longer send tracked armored vehicles, grenade launchers or bayonets to police. Additionally, explosives and riot equipment will only be sent if departments agree to use it responsibly.
“The idea is to make sure that we strike a balance in providing the equipment, which is appropriate and useful and important for local law enforcement agencies to keep the community safe, while at the same time putting standards in place so that there’s a clear reason for the transfer of that equipment, that there’s clear training and safety procedures in place,” White House Director of Domestic Policy Cecilia Muñoz said in a Sunday call with reporters.
Bottom line, Obama seems like he’s trying to de-militarize the police. However, one has to wonder whether it’s going to make much of a difference as once the genie is out of the bottle, there is no putting him back in. Put another way, many of these departments already have military equipment and a desire to obtain more.