The Trump administration is taking steps to ensure more police officers can equip themselves with camouflage uniforms, bayonets, and even grenade launchers.
On Monday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order reversing rules by former President Barack Obama that restricted police departments' ability to obtain surplus military weapons. The Obama-era restrictions curtailed programs, such as the 1033 program, that effectively let police obtain excess military gear from federal agencies for free or through federal dollars.
Obama's 2015 rules were a response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police shooting of Michael Brown, in which cops used military-grade equipment to counter the protests — a move that many critics at the time considered excessive, given that the demonstrations were mostly peaceful.
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The Trump administration has argued that military equipment is necessary for police to do their jobs in a safe manner. "I am here to announce that President Trump is issuing an executive order that will make it easier to protect yourselves and your communities," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a conference by the National Fraternal Order of Police on Monday.
The Obama administration's restrictions weren't about making the police's job more difficult. They were about changing the mentality and reputation that still surrounds law enforcement — and, ultimately, pulling back the "us versus them" view that can make policing far too aggressive, contributing to distrust toward law enforcement in many US communities.
Obama worried that letting cops easily wield sniper rifles, wear camouflaged heavy armor, and drive in armored vehicles that resemble tanks contributed to that "us versus them" mentality. But Trump apparently isn't so worried, driven by a firm belief — one that isn't shared by many criminologists — that very aggressive policing is necessary to stop crime in America.