Bold Step or Quick Fix? Obama to Restrict Military Hardware for Local Cops

October 10, 2020 0 By PENTICTONLAWYERS

In response to long-held—and increasingly elevated—criticisms of the way predominantly poor neighborhoods and communities of color have been treated by law enforcement, President Barack Obama on Monday will announce a series of federal initiatives that will include new restrictions on the kinds of military-grade equipment made available to local police departments.

Though welcomed by many as a bold step, others question whether the new rules amount to little more than a “quick fix” that does too little to address the trend towards increasingly militarized police forces across the country.

“It’s positive to see the White House addressing the issue of police militarization as it relates to Ferguson but the approach that they’re they’re taking is a minor step in addressing the overall militarization trend.”
—Prof. Peter Kraska, Eastern Kentucky UniversityFollowing the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last summer and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement that has taken root in cities across the country over the last nine months, Obama will present the new rules in a speech from Camden, New Jersey—one of the nation’s poorest cities. The speech will highlight what the White House is calling a successful model of community police work that has tried to bridge the gap between heavy-handed or brutal police tactics and a community beset by pervasive unemployment, high crime rates, and violence.

According to the Associated Press:

In March, the state of New Jersey became the first in the nation to require local approval for law enforcement acquisition of military-grade equipment, which the ACLU championed as “a major victory for government transparency, democratic accountability, and the effort to demilitarize local police forces.”

Though Obama’s initiative to reduce the amount of military hardware made available to local police departments might be considered a step in the right direction, critics like Professor Peter Kraska, chair of Graduate Studies and Research in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University and a leading expert on the militarization of police, warn that the White House reforms do not go nearly far enough.