Trump rescinds Obama limits on transfer
of military gear to police
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[August 29, 2017]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.
President Donald Trump on Monday issued an executive order revoking
limits imposed by predecessor Barack Obama on the transfer of surplus
military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, the White House
Obama had curtailed the equipment transfer program after law enforcement
officers using military-style armored vehicles and guns confronted
protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014 following the fatal police
shooting of a black teenager.
Trump's executive order said, "All executive departments and agencies
are directed, as of the date of this order and consistent with Federal
law, to cease implementing those recommendations and, if necessary, to
take prompt action to rescind any rules, regulations, guidelines, or
policies implementing them."
The Republican president has reversed or cut back many of his Democratic
predecessor's policies since taking office in January.
The use of military equipment in Ferguson prompted a wider outcry over
the use of war-fighting equipment by local law enforcement agencies in
the United States.
After a review, Obama barred the military from transferring certain
types of equipment to police or sheriff's departments, including tracked
armored vehicles, armed aircraft or vehicles of any kind, .50-caliber
firearms and ammunition, grenade launchers, bayonets and camouflage
Obama also required law enforcement agencies to justify the need for
items like helicopters and other aircraft, wheeled armored vehicles,
unmanned drones, riot helmets and "flash-bang" grenades.
"These restrictions that had been imposed went too far," U.S. Attorney
General Jeff Sessions told a meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police
union in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier on Monday.
"We will not put superficial concerns above public safety. We will do
our best to get you what you need." Sessions did not specify what those
superficial concerns were.
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President Donald Trump waves as he walks on South Lawn of the White
House in Washington, U.S., before his departure to Camp David,
August 25, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Sessions said helmets and body armor available through the Defense
Department program were the types of equipment that saved the life
of a police officer during the 2016 Orlando, Florida, nightclub
shooting. And helicopters and armored vehicles are vital to
emergency and disaster response, he said.
Monday's order drew criticism from some of Trump's fellow
Republicans in Congress.
"It is one thing for federal officials to work with local
authorities to reduce or solve crime, but it is another for them to
subsidize militarization," Senator Rand Paul said in a statement.
Paul promised to introduce legislation that would ban transfers of
certain military equipment to local law enforcement agencies,
improve transparency surrounding such transfers, and require the
agencies to return equipment prohibited under the proposed law.
U.S. Representative Mark Sanford also condemned the executive order,
criticizing the transfer program as a potential waste of taxpayers'
dollars. He said in a statement that he had introduced a bill in
2016 to auction off military equipment instead of give it to local
The Defense Department's law enforcement support program has
transferred more than $6 billion worth of equipment to police
agencies since its inception 25 years ago, Pentagon figures show.
(Reporting by David Alexander, additional reporting by Makini Brice;
editing by Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis)
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