America’s police force does not need rocket launchers, bayonets, tanks and .50 caliber machine guns.
The Trump administration Monday lifted a controversial ban on the transfer of some surplus military equipment to police departments whose battlefield-style response to rioting in a St. Louis suburb three years ago prompted a halt to the program.
The new plan takes effect immediately and fully rolls back an Obama administration executive order that blocked armored vehicles, large-caliber weapons, ammunition and other heavy equipment from being re-purposed from foreign battlefields to America’s streets.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who led the campaign for the program’s reinstatement, outlined the President Trump’s new executive order Monday in an address to the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, suggesting that Obama’s directive was a concession to political pressure applied by civil rights advocates.
“We will not put superficial concerns above public safety,” Sessions told the group gathered in Nashville, Tenn. “All you need to do is turn on a TV right now to see that for Houstonians this isn’t about appearances, it’s about getting the job done and getting everyone to safety.”
The attorney general referred to post-hurricane rescue effort underway in Houston, where military vehicles and helicopters–part of the the Texas National Guard–were deployed to assist in the massive response.
The administration’s action, first disclosed by USA TODAY, would restore “the full scope of a longstanding program for recycling surplus, lifesaving gear from the Department of Defense, along with restoring the full scope of grants used to purchase this type of equipment from other sources,” according to a administration summary of the new program.
“Assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be re-purposed to help state, local and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime.”
Included in the gear are such things as rocket-launchers and bayonets. According to the Trump plan, the bayonets would likely be re-purposed as utility knives and the launchers used to shoot tear gas canisters, instead of lethal ammunition.