Washington, D.C. — Today, the Trump administration issued an executive order overturning existing common-sense requirements that local law enforcement had to meet before receiving military equipment from federal agencies. The requirements had been issued under the Obama administration after the widely criticized law enforcement response to protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. They also built on previous studies and media reporting about the widespread use of military equipment in everyday police operations that, without necessary guidelines, built distrust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Ed Chung, vice president for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress and former head of the working group in charge of developing the Obama administration policies, issued the following statement in response to the news:
The Trump administration again demonstrated that its views and policies on public safety are antiquated and driven by political over practical realities. In reversing existing policies on how local law enforcement agencies acquire equipment through federal programs, the Trump administration removed essential protections designed to keep both officers and the community safer.
The crux of the Obama administration’s policies focused on ensuring that law enforcement agencies acquiring equipment through the federal government had necessary policies and training in place before the equipment was received. This is the essence of common-sense, good government practices. Prior to the Obama administration’s actions, the federal government had no requirement and thus no insight into whether local law enforcement agencies needed the equipment they received or had any guidelines in place to use the equipment appropriately.
While a small number of equipment categories were prohibited—effectively, this included armored vehicles that ran on tank tracks, bayonets, and weapons and ammunition that were .50-caliber or larger—the vast majority of other military equipment could still be acquired by law enforcement agencies. This included tactical vehicles, helicopters and other aircraft, breaching apparatus, and crowd-control shields and helmets. For these “controlled” equipment categories, law enforcement agencies could still acquire them after certifying that they had in place policies and training consistent with community and constitutional policing principles.
At a time when demonstrations and protests are commonplace across the country, the administration is failing communities by removing basic, common-sense requirements without any input from people who are policed. Unfortunately, this continues the Trump administration’s trend of removing all federal accountability measures over law enforcement and policing practices.
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