Pages Navigation Menu

United States news, headlines, events , stories and all that is trending today

No, we don’t need to give police more military gear after Dallas and Baton Rouge

Last May, President Obama announced that the federal government would no longer be allowed to give certain types of military equipment to local police departments for use on Americans.

Of course, as Rare’s Casey Given pointed out at the time, the ban was more talk than action, as Obama’s reforms did not “apply to the vast majority of paramilitary transfers.”

For example, Obama prohibited the Pentagon from handing out firearms that are .50-caliber or higher, a rule which had exactly zero effect on the 84,258 rifles police departments received, as none of them—even the weapons designed explicitly for battle use—were .50-caliber or higher.

RELATED: After ambush shootings, Dallas police chief told the community “we’re hiring” and people listened

Now, in the wake of the tragic murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the feds are considering rolling back even these modest reforms:

[T]he recent attacks targeting uniformed officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge this month prompted police organizations to ask the White House to review the ban, and consider giving departments access to the equipment to protect their officers once again.

“We’ve been trying to make people understand the utility of that equipment,” Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police told BuzzFeed News. “It serves a purpose.”

A White House official confirmed to BuzzFeed News the administration was reviewing the policy….Pasco said law enforcement agencies are aware of the often negative perception of heavily-armed police forces, but the recent targeting of officers requires a review of what equipment police have access to.

On the surface, the impulse here seems reasonable. After all, no one wants to see needless deaths.

But a moment’s reflection reveals this request is deceptive and nonsensical for three key reasons.

First, again, Obama’s executive order hardly banned anything that was actually available to police. Like the original decision, a repeal would be mostly symbolic.

Second, the sort of thing that could have actually made a difference in Dallas and Baton Rouge is body armor—wearable physical protection—and that was never banned (here‘s the list of prohibited items on p. 12-13; you’ll see nothing resembling body armor). Police departments have never been limited in their ability to wear protective gear that might have saved lives in these two incidents.

And third, the equipment that would be affected by a repeal is a pretty short list that primarily consists of weaponized aircraft, bayonets, grenade launchers and tanks (specifically, armored vehicles that use tracks instead of wheels). None of these would have helped in Dallas or Baton Rouge.

No responsible police department would use weapons as indiscriminate as grenades and gunfire from the sky in an American city. Bayonets would be a bizarre choice to deal with a shooter. And a tank is, likewise, ill-suited for pursuit of a single suspect in a downtown area (as in Dallas) or on a highway (as in Baton Rouge). An M1 Abrams’ top road speed is only 45 mph; that’s no good for a highway chase.

RELATED: Obama’s police militarization reforms won’t make much difference

In short, the equipment Pasco wants back could not have saved those officers’ lives and is unlikely to be helpful in any similar situations in the future. Indeed, as Anthony Fisher argues at Reason, following the San Bernardino attack, “SWAT teams rarely (if ever) encounter mass shooters or terrorists.” They’re usually kept busy fighting the failed drug war. Fisher adds:

This is not to say there isn’t a place for heavily-armed and armored high-risk response teams to neutralize hostage situations or confront mass murderers intent on maximum carnage. But with anywhere from 50,000-80,000 SWAT raids in the US annually, using the response to the San Bernardino shootings as an excuse to roll back the modest and sensible scale-down of surplus equipment meant for an occupying army would be a mistake.

I’ve written about the incredible rise and misuse of SWAT teams at The Week, and suffice it to say, Fisher’s point is something of an understatement. Only 7 percent of SWAT raids today deal with the really dangerous situations they were created to confront. The rest of the raids deal with low-level, reasonably safe situations where military gear is overkill—like breaking up football betting among friends or catching unlicensed barbers.

America’s police departments are still far too militarized, to the detriment of citizens’ safety and community-police relations. Our very justified grief over attacks on officers cannot distract from these facts.

This post is from RareRare. Click here to read the full text

The best life hacks ever revealed to help make things easy everyday

Follow us on twitter @UnitedStatesTD

Also, Like us on facebook

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *