Trump reverses Obama's ban on military gear for police forces
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order lifting restrictions imposed by his predecessor Barack Obama on the acquisition of military-style equipment to the police. Trump's order allows police to equip themselves with items such as grenade launchers, high-calibre weapons and armored vehicles. The restrictions imposed by Obama were in response to police heavy-handedness while dealing with protests against police shootings in Ferguson in 2014.
Concerns over militarization of police prompted Obama's move
Obama's directive limited police forces' access to camouflage uniforms, riot shields and other items. It came after a white police officer named Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. Brown's death sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and the use of deadly force especially against black men. Another concern was the growing militarization of police forces.
Obama: 'Police shouldn't be seen as occupying force'
"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 had said while enforcing his directive. "It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message," he had added.
Trump administration felt Obama's restrictions "went too far"
The current Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Obama's restrictions "went too far" and that the Trump administration wouldn't "allow criminal activity, violence and lawlessness to become the new normal." "The executive order... will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job," he told a meeting of police officers in Nashville. "We have your back," he told police.
Civil society groups slam Trump's move
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has called Trump's move "exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible," adding that it encouraged confrontations with officers. The American Civil Liberties Union said America is facing an "epidemic… of police using excessive force particularly against people of color, with injuries and deaths mounting." "It defies logic to arm the police with weapons of war," it added.