CAMDEN, N.J. — President Barack Obama ended long-running federal transfers of some combat-style gear to local law enforcement on Monday in an attempt to ease tensions between police and minority communities.
Grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher will no longer be provided to state and local police agencies by the federal government, under Obama’s order.
“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said, nine months after an outcry over the use of riot gear and armored vehicles by police confronting protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.
“It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message,” he said.
Obama made his announcement in Camden, New Jersey, where he praised efforts by the police department to improve their relationship with a poor community struggling with violence.
In addition to the prohibitions in his order, Obama is placing a longer list of military equipment under tighter control, including wheeled armored vehicles like Humvees, manned aircraft, drones, specialized firearms, explosives, battering rams and riot batons, helmets and shields. Starting in October, police will have to get approval from their city council, mayor or some other local governing body to obtain such equipment.
Programs that transfer surplus military-style equipment from the Pentagon and other federal agencies have been around for decades, but Congress increased spending to help departments acquire the gear in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks.