President Barack Obama announced on May 18 that his administration will prohibit federal agencies from providing local police certain kinds of militarized equipment. The new prohibitions are part of an executive order and include grenade launches, high-caliber weapons and bayonets.
A longer list of equipment provided by the federal government will be controlled more tightly, though not banned. In order to obtain weaponry, local agencies will have to get approval and provide an explanation of why they need it, receive adequate training, and collect sufficient data on the use of the equipment.
Obama said in making the announcement, “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. It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message. So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments,”
This announcement coincides with the release of a report from the President’s 21st Century Policing Task Force, which aims to improve relations between police forces and the communities in which they serve. The President also announced a $163 million grant to encourage local police to adopt task force recommendations, which will be awarded in the fall.
Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorofChange.org, said his group applauds the President’s action which comes “at a time when militarized police violence continues to threaten the civil and human rights of Black communities every day. This is just one small but crucial step in the right direction.”
He urged greater executive action, including comprehensive database on police use of force.
“Success of the Task Force’s recommendation lies in enforcement, as well as in comprehensive data collection of police use of force in order to track impact.
“For 15 years, the Attorney General has had the authority to collect data on police force and killings, yet there remains no comprehensive, national database. The best way to improve trust between police and local communities is through transparency and accountability.”