BTBuzz: Government reconsidering ban on military gear for police


The White House is considering revoking a ban enacted last year that prohibits police agencies from obtaining military-grade equipment.

BuzzFeed News reported Tuesday that President Obama is considering overturning the ban, which means police agencies could again transfer equipment, such as body armor and armored vehicles, from U.S. military forces to their departments. 

The announcement comes on the heels of concerns raised by law enforcement leaders over the recent targeted attacks on police officers.

President Barack Obama imposed the ban after some in the community expressed concern over police agencies using equipment on city streets they charged seemed better suited for a war zone. However, proponents of police safety have countered this critique saying the gear is sometimes a necessity for departments to protect their officers and the community. 

Starting in 1996, military equipment was allowed to be transferred to police departments in what is known as the 1033 Program, BuzzFeed reported.

Under 1033, more than 8 million items from the Department of Defense were transferred to police agencies across the country.

The program gained moment after 9/11, but was axed by Obama when in 2015 communities challenged the need for military-grade equipment during protests in which officers used gas masks, armored vehicles and grenade launchers to deploy tear gas, BuzzFeed reported.

Larger agencies still were able to purchase the gear on their own, but for smaller departments with tighter budgets, this proved challenging.

Police officials say recent targeted attacks on law enforcement in Dallas and Baton Rouge underscore why officers need access to military-grade gear. And in incidents like the Orlando nightclub shooting where an officer was shot in the head, but was saved by his military-style helmet, it further highlights the importance of using this gear in life-threatening scenarios.

There also are dozens of examples in recent years, including several mass shootings and police standoffs, in which armored vehicles were used and likely saved the lives of officers, police officials have said.

“The sad reality is police agencies must protect their communities against some of the most heavily armed and dangerous criminals in U.S. history,” Citrus Heights Police Chief Christopher W. Boyd previously wrote in a guest column on Behind the Badge OC. “Tragically … violence remains a daily reality. And so does violence against police officers. And some of the devastating weapons that today’s criminals possess and use can easily penetrate light-armored vehicles and personal body armor.”

Boyd also pointed out in his column that he disagrees with the idea police want to be “militarized.” Instead, he said, they want the right gear so police can safely do their job.

“No police chief I’m aware would allow his or her department to become ‘militarized,'”he wrote. “To the contrary, police leaders have taken great steps to modernize their equipment and community policing philosophy.

“The not-so-subtle implication of the term ‘militarization’– that cops have some kind of warrior mindset – could not be further from the truth.”