President Obama Bans Police Use of Military-Grade Weapons, Equipment

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

President Barack Obama has announced a new ban on American police forces' use of military-grade equipment, including some weapons. American police forces will no longer have access to military-style equipment, including some weapons. NBC News reports that tanks, grenade launchers, weaponized aircraft, firearms measuring over .50 caliber and bayonets will all taken off the market for law enforcement officers.

The new bans on militarized policing comes in the wake of a string of nationwide confrontations between officers and protesters outraged by high-profile killings of unarmed persons by law enforcement. Following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, police forces deployed army-style camouflage and other combat gear more suited for foreign war, rather than domestic crowd control. In New York City, NYPD officers have repeatedly used Long Range Acoustic Devices--better known as sound cannons--to impair and disperse protests organized by Black Lives Matter activists.

President Obama opted for the ban following the findings of a task force he founded in January. According to The New York Times, that task force found a ban on military equipment necessary, in order for the President to succeed in his attempts "to try to build trust between law enforcement organizations and the citizens they are charged with protecting."

The Times continues:

In addition to prohibiting some equipment outright, officials said, Mr. Obama accepted the group’s recommendation to impose new restrictions on other military-style items, such as wheeled armored vehicles, pyrotechnics, battering rams and riot gear, and more stringent requirements for training and information collection for departments that acquire them.

The presidential task force has submitted a 116-page report alongside the ban, which calls on police forces nationwide to "embrace a guardian--rather than a warrior--mind-set to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public."

The president will spend Monday promoting the new ban while on a trip to Camden, New Jersey, which includes an appearance alongside state governor Chris Christie. The location is significant--the Camden city Police Department was disbanded in 2013, with local control being delegated to the county. Since the change, violent crime has dropped citywide.

In an excellent article published last year, Mother Jones broke down in clear terms how the process of police militarization works in America:

The tanks came from a vast Defense Department program that has furnished American police arsenals, at no charge, with $4.3 billion worth of combat equipment leftover from two foreign wars [...] In the past eight years, the Pentagon program has loaned local law enforcement some 200,000 ammunition magazines, 94,000 machine guns, and thousands of armored vehicles, rifles, aircraft, land mine detectors, silencers, and grenade launchers—all at the request of the local agencies themselves. But images of the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, of police in military gear cracking down on peaceful protesters, have turned many communities against a program critics say has eroded the line between police officers and soldiers.

[...]But some agencies have found the process of getting rid of unwanted military gear next to impossible. Agencies can't return or trade large pieces of tactical equipment without Defense Department approval, and because the Pentagon technically still owns that equipment, they can't sell it.

According to interviews with state officials running point between the Pentagon and police, the Defense Department prefers to leave equipment in circulation whenever possible. "It's a low-cost storage method for them," says Robb Davis, the mayor pro tem of Davis. His town is trying to shake its MRAP. "They're dumping these vehicles on us and saying, 'Hey, these are still ours, but you have to maintain them for us.'"