President-elect Donald Trump has announced a major shift in one current policy. According to news sources, surplus military, tracked armored vehicles, and high-powered firearms and ammunition will once again be available to state and local U.S. law enforcement agencies
In 2015, current President Barack Obama issued an executive order restricting that access, which had previously been allowed, after an outcry of police use of armored vehicles and other military surplus gear to confront protesters and restore order in Ferguson, Missouri. The protests occurred in 2014 and came in the wake of the Officer-Involved-Shooting of Michael Brown. Looting, rioting, and other criminal acts led to complete, out-of-control chaos in the streets of Ferguson for days after the incident. Since that time, on the authority of President Obama’s order, federal officials have recalled more than 1,800 items, which have now been destroyed.
National police organizations said that they will hold President-elect Donald Trump to his promise. After President Obama’s executive order, many agencies, especially those with fewer employees, lost valuable equipment that they had no other means of acquiring. Many state and local police agencies protested against the executive order and subsequent restrictions, and insisted that military-style vehicles and gear helped protect officers’ lives and public safety.
According to news sources, an example of military-issued surplus used by police would be a tracked armored vehicle that played a key role in police response to the mass shooting at a county government building in San Bernardino, California, in December, 2015. During his Presidential campaign, President-elect Trump met with many law enforcement leaders on the local, state, and federal levels. In September, 2016, he promised to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) questionnaire. This helped President-elect Trump win an endorsement from the FOP, which is an organization of rank-and-file law enforcement officers. According to President-elect Trump, his statement to the FOP in the questionnaire was that “the 1033 program is an excellent program that enhances community safety.”
Jonathan F. Thompson, National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director, said his group has discussed this issue with the Trump transition team. William J. Johnson, Executive Director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said he had positive conversations about the issue prior to the November 8, 2016 election. He said “the feeling that we got is they absolutely hear us and they share our concerns.”
President Obama’s Executive Order prohibited the federal government from providing any military surplus equipment such as grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to state and local police agencies. His Executive Order also initiated mandatory recordkeeping, local oversight, and training for the acquisition and/or use of surplus military gear which was allowed. Law enforcement agencies are still receiving some military surplus equipment, just on a much smaller level. For example, 183 law enforcement agencies have received mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles or MRAPs, through the 1033 program so far this year. That’s an increase from the 165 MRAPs that were distributed in 2013.
We thank President-elect Trump for his support of law enforcement in rescinding this Executive Order. This equipment is a necessity for many law enforcement agencies and would not be affordable or available otherwise.
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