New Restrictions on Military Hardware Signals Shift in U.S. Policy

A team of Cabinet officials organized by President Obama, announced new limits last Monday on programs supplying military grade hardware to local law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

Federal programs like the 1033 specifically reallocate excess military hardware ranging from high caliber guns and ammunition to armored troop transports. The program has been particularly controversial recently as the military grade equipment seems to be showing up more in situations calling for crowd control than military-style interventions to stop terrorist threats, which the equipment allocation was originally for.

Public outrage over these events would have been bad enough without images of over-geared officers and tank-like vehicles responding to riots on U.S. soil. The Cabinet report is quoted as saying that there is, “substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items,” which “could significantly undermine community trust.”

As a result, new regulations have been put into place including a list of specific pieces of equipment that will no longer be available to law enforcement agencies. There are also new procedures meant to teach officers how to appropriately use the dangerous and complex military hardware, and stricter requirements for police applying for government equipment.

While these new regulations may help to improve public perception of law enforcement agencies, they are a part of a much larger effort by President Obama to respond to the recent wave of riots in Ferguson Missouri and Baltimore Maryland.

The announcement was made on the same day that President Obama visited Camden, New Jersey, one of the 8 new “Promise Zones”. These are cities that have been selected to receive preferential treatment from the federal government in efforts to reduce poverty and crime and are being touted as “anti-Ferguson’s” by a variety of news outlets, and occasionally, by government officials.

Regardless, the new restrictions on the 1033 program will not prevent police forces from being able to receive military equipment, which is a boon to many underfunded agencies. They will still be able to receive a more strictly controlled supply of hardware, but this time they will have extra training and oversight to go with it.


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