Police to regain access to surplus military weapons, equipment


President Trump is understood to have taken the decision to scrap an Obama-era ban that currently prevents local law-enforcement forces from obtaining specific surplus equipment from the military. The ban was introduced in May 2015 following the Ferguson unrest.

The 1033 program, which came into force in 1990, allowed cash-strapped police forces to request military equipment which would otherwise have been scrapped. According to White House data, over $5 billion worth of surplus equipment was transferred to state and local law-enforcement agencies since the program was introduced.

The move, the Trump administration explains, “represents a policy shift toward ensuring officers have the tools they need to reduce crime and keep their communities safe. It sends the message that we care more about public safety than about how a piece of equipment looks, especially when that equipment has been shown to reduce crime, reduce complaints against and assaults on police, and makes officers more effective.”

When Obama severely restricted the transfers two years ago, he remarked that “militarized gear sometimes gives people a feeling like [the police] are an occupying force as opposed to a part of the community there to protect them” and that certain equipment designed for the battlefield was “not appropriate for local police departments.”

Obama’s decision to side with the rioters against law enforcement was strongly criticized at the time while the head of the country’s largest police union emphasized that the Obama administration had overreacted.

“The issue of militarization has been really kind of exaggerated almost to the point that I don’t recognize it at times. The vast majority of the equipment that civilian law enforcement gets from the military is administrative stuff or defensive in nature,” the union’s Executive Director James Pasco stressed in 2015.

Obama’s executive order prevented the federal government from transferring grenade launchers, bayonets, some types of armoured vehicles as well as weapons and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher to police.

According to a recent study conducted by the American Economic Association, for every $1 dollar of military equipment given to law enforcement agencies – the agencies do not have to pay for the equipment they request but they must cover the cost of shipping or transportation – around $20 is saved as a result of reduced crime levels.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions could announce the new policy as early as Monday when he addresses the Fraternal Order of Police National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.