In the wake of the over-militarized response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri, then-President Obama restricted certain items like grenade launchers and bayonets from going to local police departments through the Defense Department’s 1033 program. The Trump Administration recently reversed the Obama-era decision in a misguided gesture to support local law enforcement.
This afternoon, a broad coalition of over 60 civil liberties and public policy organizations signed open letters to Congressional leadership to put a moratorium on the 1033 program and hold hearings on its efficacy. The signatories include The Constitution Project, the ACLU, the R Street Institute, FreedomWorks, the NAACP, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership, and a bevy of other groups across the political spectrum who question the need for these weapons of war in domestic law enforcement. Police officers should be supplied with what they need to protect and serve their communities, but it’s difficult to imagine how bayonets fill that role. If such a role can be identified, then someone should explain it to Congress and the American people.
This administration’s actions and rhetoric appeal to the worst and most notorious aspects of police culture. Aggressive, antagonistic policing abuses the communities that need effective law enforcement the most. Outrageous bluster about roughing-up detainees and passing out military hardware that officers don’t need is faux support from the Trump Administration that further undermines local police priorities and diminishes public safety.