Obama Announces Halt to Transfer of Some Tanks and Camouflage to Police Forces; Stun Grenades, Manned Aircraft and Explosives Still Acceptable

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
(photo: Jeff Roberson, AP)

Police departments will no longer have the same access to military surplus equipment that they have enjoyed in post-9/11 America, as a result of a turnabout by President Barack Obama.


A public outcry emerged over the deployment of police in militarized riot gear that confronted protestors during last year’s riots in Ferguson, Missouri. But Obama rejected calls to limit the flow of armored vehicles and assault weapons to local law enforcement.


This week, however, the president decided to impose a selective ban on some military-style equipment being made available to police and sheriff’s departments. Effective immediately, the federal government will stop selling or giving away armored vehicles that run on a tracked system (those that resemble tanks), weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets and camouflage uniforms.


“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there's an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said. “It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.”


Federal officials may even recall some of the equipment already in the hands of local police, according to the Associated Press.


But the ban on military gear is by no means all-encompassing. Law enforcement will still have access to plenty of other military goods, including wheeled armored vehicles (such as Humvees), manned aircraft, drones, specialized firearms, explosives, battering rams and riot batons, helmets and shields.


These and other items will, however, come under stricter controls, including new requirements that police departments get approval from local city councils or other local government bodies before requesting military equipment from Washington.


A federal report released in December revealed that federal agencies spent $18 billion on arming local police, providing 92,442 small arms, 44,275 night-vision devices, 5,235 Humvees, 617 mine-resistant vehicles and 616 aircraft, among other items.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Obama Puts Stricter Controls on Military-Style for Police (by Nedra Pickler, Associated Press)

Obama to Limit Military-Style Equipment for Police Forces (by Julie Hirschfeld Davis, New York Times)

Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (Office of Community Oriented Policing Services) (pdf)

Obama to Continue Arming Nation’s Police with Military Gear, But with Some Tweaks (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)

Tanks on the Streets? Police Required to Use Military Equipment within a Year or Return It (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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