The overzealous soldiers of the American drug war could experience a major disarmament courtesy of the Obama Administration. On Monday, the President banned the federal government from supplying local police departments with military-grade weapons, while also encouraging law enforcement to consider employing less combative methods against civil society.
No longer will the federal government provide police agencies with wartime equipment, such as armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and high-caliber firearms, which has served as a violent strong-arm against the very communities they have been sworn to protect. However, a new report from the White House suggests that police agencies will still be permitted to utilize these types of high-powered intimidation machines, but they must acquire them from other sources.
Officials say this forced disarmament of police is all part of a plan to ease the tensions between minority populations and local police departments that have caused vicious escalations in recent months in places like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland.
Earlier this year, President Obama signed an executive order preventing state and local police forces from using federal resources to purchase military-grade equipment, including camouflage uniforms and bayonets. This latest acquisition ban, which is in response to that order, attempts to hinder law enforcement from engaging communities as though they are the enemy, while reestablishing peaceful public relations across the country.
“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,” said White House Director of Domestic Policy Cecilia Muñoz.
Unfortunately, the ban only prevents local law enforcement from getting their hands on Uncle Sam’s latest tactical tools; it does nothing to force them into surrendering their current arsenal. Yet, President Obama said in a press conference that he plans to award $163 million in grants to those departments willing to embrace the latest recommendations. Another $20 million in federal funding will be made available to police agencies prepared to fit their officers with body cameras, according to White House officials.
Ultimately, the s executive order and recent disarmament suggestions merely propose a certain level of reform in terms of local police tactics. It will be up to city leaders and other influential powers to pressure police departments to lighten their hand and adopt a more civil, responsible approach to protecting the community.