Washington (CNN)The Trump government will unveil a new plan Monday to roll back limits on a controversial program that offers local law enforcement agencies with surplus military gear, marking the end of a policy implemented during the Obama administration.
“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 at the moment. “It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.”
President Donald Trump will sign a new executive order Monday rescinding Obama’s directive and Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the policy shift during a speech at the annual conference of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, Tennessee, where he received multiple standing ovations and appeared touched by the warm welcome.
“The executive order the President will sign today will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence and lawlessness to become a new normal,” Sessions added.
Civil rights groups swiftly blasted the equipment policy shift Monday, saying the Obama-era guidelines were crucial to rebuilding trust with communities of color.
“These guidelines were created after Ferguson to ensure that police departments had a guardian, not warrior, mentality,” said Vanita Gupta, former head of DOJ’s civil rights division under Obama and who now leads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Our communities are not the same as armed combatants in a war zone.”
But the National Fraternal Order of Police applauded the information and the group’s president, Chuck Canterbury, clarified that the FOP has been working to roll back Obama’s restrictions since the day they were announced.
“The previous administration was more concerned about the image of law enforcement being too ‘militarized’ than they were about our safety,” Canterbury said in a statement. “In an effort to shut down a single program run by the Defense Department, known as the 1033 program, they restricted access to surplus equipment throughout the federal government.”
Congress originally launched the so-called “1033 program” in 1990 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which allowed the Defense Department to move surplus hardware and equipment to state and local law enforcement to be used in “counter-drug activities.”
The recycled gear included equipment the bureaus would normally be not able to afford and the original program has resulted in the transfer of more than $5.4 billion worth of gear since the 1990s.
Armored vehicles and other military gear were also used by police officers during the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
A Trump management document describing the policy shift claims that it “sends the message that we care more about public safety than about how a piece of equipment looks, especially when that equipment has been shown to reduce crime, reduce complaints against and assaults on police, and make officers more effective.”
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