Obama’s Plan to End Militarization of Police Not Credible

Are reports that the President will end the militarization of the police to be trusted?

I wanted to believe it but the very first sentence in this summary news report killed my ability to believe that we are really going to see anyone put a stop to the militarization of police.

From Newser.com: “No More Grenade Launchers, Bayonets for Local Police.”

If a police department wants to outfit itself with military equipment, it will now have to make a very strong case for why it needs to.

A strong case to whom?

It should be up to local voters and taxpayers how their police department is equipped. If they think they need a certain level of armor or weaponry then they can purchase it from suppliers.

[See also, “Police Bayonets – Whose Idea Was That?”]

Barack Obama is not ending the program of getting free toys to law enforcement. He just wants to (allegedly) make them prove they need those toys.

This is basic Federalism and local self-government. But it is ignored in the President’s plan.

After an uproar over a program that allowed law enforcement to get surplus military gear—including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, bayonets, and camouflage uniforms—the Obama administration is now limiting the availability of such gear to local police departments. Some items, like firearms above .50 caliber, are now entirely banned for local PDs, but there is a list of “controlled items” including Humvees, “flash bang” stun grenades, and drones that police may acquire if they meet certain requirements. The departments would then need to present a “clear and persuasive reason” and have the request approved by a city council or other civilian government body.

Local communities should be responsible for their own police equipment. There is no excuse to make national taxpayers subsidize the equipping of police in various localities.

It is a step forward that the request has to be approved by a city council, but we have no idea how seriously that requirement will be enforced or when it will be quietly rescinded. If police departments were expected to purchase their own gear, rather than get bribes from the Feds, then the local government would be automatically involved. The only reason this situation ever arose was because the Federal Government used its resources to arm police departments without any local authorization above that police station. Local areas need to be responsible for their own law enforcement.

Furthermore, we already have governors in states who can call out the National Guard. A potential riot that may never happen is not an excuse to arm a local police department.

Rather than support Federalism and local self-government, Obama has further undermined it. According to the New York Times, Obama

is grappling with the limits of his power to force changes in police departments around the country, where practices and procedures are varied and the federal government’s ability to influence change can be minimal. The equipment task force stems from an executive order, and its conclusions affect only the material supplied by the federal government, while the policing recommendations are merely a blueprint for what Mr. Obama would like to see happen in jurisdictions throughout the country.

Mr. Obama announced $163 million in grants to encourage police departments to adopt the suggestions. The administration also will launch a “tool kit” for the use of body-worn cameras; the Justice Department created a grant program for law enforcement agencies to purchase them.

Ms. Muñoz said the task force’s report was “not just a blueprint for us and for local law enforcement agencies, but also for community leaders and others and stakeholders,” giving them “some very specific things to be asking for and, frankly, insisting on in order to improve policing practices.”

In other words, just like the Pentagon goes to a place like Afghanistan and purchases the loyalty of local warlords, our own Federal government is using national taxes and debt to exert further control over local police departments.