If president-elect Donald Trump keeps his promise, surplus military grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles and high-powered firearms and ammunition will once again be available to state and local U.S. police departments.
National police organizations say they’ll hold Trump to that promise.
President Barack Obama issued an executive order restricting that access in 2015 amid an outcry over police use of armored vehicles and other war-fighting gear to confront protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Since then, federal officials have recalled more than 1,800 items, which have been destroyed through target practice or otherwise disposed of, officials say.
But state and local police organizations have protested, insisting that military-style vehicles and gear help protect officers’ lives and public safety — for example, a privately manufactured, tracked armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the mass shooting at a county government building in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015.
During his campaign, Trump sided with the police. In September, he promised to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers.
“The 1033 program is an excellent program that enhances community safety. I will rescind the current executive order,” reads the response posted on the group’s website.
“We take him at his word,” Executive Director James Pasco said in a recent telephone interview.
The Trump transition team did not respond to questions from The Associated Press about the executive order.
National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jonathan F. Thompson said his group has pressed the topic in discussions with Trump’s transition team. And William J. Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said he was encouraged by his conversations with Trump representatives before the Nov. 8 election.