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Feds Want to Review Military Equipment for Police

August 25, 2014  | 

Photo: Mark W. Clark
Photo: Mark W. Clark
Jolted by images of protesters clashing with heavily armed police officers in Missouri, President Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of the government’s decade-old strategy of outfitting local police departments with military-grade body armor, mine-resistant trucks, silencers and automatic rifles, senior officials say.

The New York Times reports that the review, coupled with proposed legislation and planned congressional hearings, opens the possibility for significant changes in Washington’s approach to arming local law enforcement agencies.

Such reviews would have been unlikely in Washington before the Ferguson protests.

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, a member of both the Intelligence and Homeland Security committees, dismissed the criticism and said he had seen nothing to justify scaling back federal police grants. He said there was no evidence that giving the police heavy weaponry and equipment worsened the situation in Ferguson or led to abuses elsewhere.

Comments (22)

Displaying 1 - 22 of 22

Tom Ret @ 8/25/2014 8:10 AM

It is a lot more important when and how the equipment is used as opposed to whether police should have it. The media and uninformed exaggerate how menacing this equipment is such as calling an armored vehicle a tank or a semi automatic rifle a machine gun. Let the critics and politically correct get out there in the middle of a riot with bullets flying and handle things.

Wait until the next terrorist attack, which both retired and active generals are
warning about, and there will be a scramble to get such evil equipment in the hands of the police. The threat of the cartels and terrorism is an ever increasing one that the police will be faced with. The police will need military type gear and weapons to respond against similarly armed groups if they want to be successful.
Don't let them have the gear and there will a lot more dead cops and civilians alike.

Fed LEO @ 8/25/2014 10:30 AM

If it was up to the PC crowd, we'd be back to the days of Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith) who didn't wear a gun, and his Deputy Barney with his one bullet in his shirt pocket. I'm curious, what was the officer driving and what weapon did he use in Ferguson? Funny, I didn't see any pictures that the officer used an MRAP, and the perp was shot with an Full-Auto M-4. Did I miss that?

Chief Fire Marshal J. All @ 8/25/2014 12:01 PM

Why give it to the local police when we can abandon it overseas and let terrorists have it for free? This program makes sense....keep the politicians out of it. Let them know if they vote to remove this program, we'll vote to remove them. Period.

SupportLE @ 8/25/2014 12:08 PM

Just like years ago when police carried .38 revolvers. Police had to up modernize their weapons and tactics to stay ahead of criminals. FedLeo is exactly right. The officer involved in this shooting was not driving a armored humvee, armed with a full auto M16. The police are a quasi/para military organization and these weapons and tools are part of the trade of the profession. They keep complaining the police are to militarized; well guess what folks if these tools are taken away from police then the next event like this guess who will respond? THE MILITARY with even more advanced, weapons, tactics, vehicles, equipment. So then they will complain the response was to militarized and want to go back to the police handling urban events. It's nice to be a armchair QB which is exactly what the politicians, media and critics are doing.

Trigger @ 8/25/2014 12:10 PM

This make perfect sense to me, why would the law enforcement professionals need such macho stuff? After talking with some returning vets from the middle east they ran into similiar problems with some command not wanting to make too big of an explosion. What happened to getting in and getting the job done. We have military surplus equipment, if the local tax payers had to pay for it we would not have a department. Hard to believe that there is nothing more pressing in this country for the President to worry about!

Eugene Natkong @ 8/25/2014 12:26 PM

It seems this days the police organization is getting carried away with adding the Military Surplus Arsenal to be used against it's own citizen to regain any problems they might have in their own community.

If they cannot handle their own citizens then most likely these officers have a real problem working with the citizens they represent.

There are always a solution to the problems each community can worked out but leave the Miilitary Surplus Equipment out of their reach.

Perhaps if they used the equipment against it own citizens in the Riot situation, it seems that it is going to be adding a blood bath in it's own community one of those days.

Johnny Law @ 8/25/2014 1:16 PM

Hummm Lets see.......they had military grade equipment and no one was shot.....Tehn the Governor called in the National Guard and uhhh.....wait....they have military equipment.......why were they called in? Oh yeah, they had better military equipment and again there was no one shot or injured. Which means people that cry about Law Enforcement having military equipment don't know what they are talking about.

tedb @ 8/25/2014 1:36 PM

Eugene Natkong: WHAT??? Please study the English language a bit better before you try using it to express an opinion that no one can understand. As a retired fed and former local officer, I feel much better about the locals having such equipment available than I do the federal folks.

Here-in-Missouri @ 8/25/2014 2:01 PM

What the public isn't hearing about is that those armored vehicles that responded to the riots in Ferguson were shot at by protesters, so they saved lives. They were also used to evac victims out of the hot zone, so they helped save MORE lives. They WERE used for good things, but anything can be spun to look bad.

I say that if the governing body, whether it be a city, county, state, or federal department, doesn't like the practices of THEIR police department, it should be up to them to address the issue. For the feds to drop a blanket over all departments and restrict the use of surplus military equipment (which those vehicles weren't), people, cops and citizens alike, will get killed without it. Remember what happened after the Bank of America shootout in North Hollywood? After that, we all started getting rifles in our cars, rather than keeping them locked up at the station. Going backwards seems nuts to me.

Yeti @ 8/25/2014 2:27 PM

Well you do have to serve and protect. Does that mean serve warrants and protect the officers or serve and protect the citizens? MRAP's seem a bit of overkill to me especially for a small unit. Unfortunately there are some perps that would look at that as a challenge. Also there are Leo 's who look at it as opportunity to use such equipment without good reason. Play well my friends!

Mark @ 8/25/2014 2:43 PM

I first want to say I am a former large city cop and Federal Special Agent. I was SWAT trained and often used "military style" firearms on the job. With that being said, queue the obligatory “No way you were a cop” comments because you have a different opinion than me. I agree cops at all levels need this stuff. And this is nothing new. Even before 9/11 law enforcement received surplus military weapons. My old PD had Thompsons still in their vault from the 1930s they got from the Government. What has changed is the optics.

I noticed a few years back police starting to dress like they were soldiers and not police. Wearing camouflage in an urban environment and ski masks and balaclavas with skulls painted on them. They also wore nothing to identify themselves as police. That is what I have a problem with and that is not how the police should dress in America. I really think that is what the public and media first noticed and now they are questioning everything. Continued below.

Mark @ 8/25/2014 2:44 PM

Continued from above.

One example of what I am talking about is when I was shopping at my local grocery store. I was in the canned foods aisle when a very young looking man came walking down the aisle also shopping. He looked like he might have been high school aged. He was wearing head to toe green camo, and he had a strange belt with military looking pouches and not a police belt. He wore a tactical thigh holster with a Glock. He had nothing on him to identify himself as police. Nothing. As I walked by him I noticed he had a small subdued black patch that said police. No one could see this patch unless you where within a foot of this guy. The other customers in the aisle were freaked out by him, starred at him, and ran out of the aisle. This is around the same time there was a mass shooting in the news and the bad guys dressed up similar to this. Also, this same PD has their SWAT guys wearing skull ski masks.

Continued below.

Mark @ 8/25/2014 2:45 PM

Continued from above.

It was also pointed out on the news that a small Georgia PD had a video on their web site of a training exercise they did with an armored tracked vehicle. The video started off showing skulls and the song “Die Mother [email protected], Die” played during the video. Is this what we want to see from our police in America?

I can see all kinds of legal problems dressing up like the military too. “Yes, your Honor, I shot at the police entering my home because they were dressed like military commandos with nothing on them to identify them as police.”

The police need the military firearms and equipment but at the same time the police in America need to act and look like police. Not a military assault squad out to kill the enemy. If guys want to dress like this the military is always looking to hire.

Steve @ 8/25/2014 3:42 PM

My dept has been in the 1033 program for years. 98% of what we have gotten my whole community can count on in a disaster. Generators, tools, tents, cots, lap tops, first aid supplies, cold weather clothing, snow blower, rescue gator and the list goes on. Nothing I saw on the TV about the riots showed any gear that you can pick up through 1033. Without this program the gear would be thrown out or sold to the public.

Concerned Citizen @ 8/25/2014 8:37 PM

The "Feds" want Mil spec. equipment for their "Police State". I don't support Criminals, but when the Fed Gov. lets Illegal Aliens kill innocent citizens and keeps the border open. You have the right to question their "Good Intentions". Heck what intentions? They put Illegals first every chance they get! My question is who's going to be targeted with the LRAD? Tea Party people? Christians? People who support the Bill of Rights? It would be great if some LEOs turned the "Police State" on the Oppressors not on the Oppressed! Also LEO Unions should call out the Media for what's it's doing to Innocent people being publicly Lynched because they're COPS. Or so-called "White Hispanic" like Zimmerman. I can hope the Police State ruins the lives of those in the Media that want it so bad! Or they die from the Thugs they foster/create!

Dave55 @ 8/25/2014 9:36 PM

I think some people (media included) need to read up on the 1033 program which was an invention of congress, not the pentagon. It came into being through the 1990-1991 National Defense Authorization. Keep in mind also the Florida FBI shootout outgunned, and then again the North Hollywood shootout with bank robbers 1997...If agencies are found to misuse they can be suspended if they fail to correct problems or barred from participating in 1033. This is an area where their will always be pro and con. From what I know and saw in video’s most of the tactical equipment used in Ferguson MO is not military but from other sources of tactical equipment...Training and use of this equipment is the local departments and end users of equipment responsibility once turned over…

Safety and Security should always come first for all and this may require some tools folks may not like that's just a fact! Any confirmed improper use can be an issue that needs to be looked at investigation.

Capt. Crunch @ 8/25/2014 10:03 PM

You can say what you want to say but all these BS problems are caused by one person and his name is Obama. If we can't impeach him have a petition signed to have him resign. Enough is enough

eodk9trainer @ 8/26/2014 3:07 AM

Take the Obama crap elsewhere.

Chief Dulworth @ 8/26/2014 4:57 AM

Those opposed to law enforcement having access to military equipment are those who walk out their doors in the morning without the worries of returning home. This is the 20th century things have changed the bad guys have more high powered weapons are their disposal we are simply trying to level the playing field. Government should give Police anything needed to aid in their protection. GOD bless our officers and their families. Unless you are one I guess they will never understand.. It's as simple as that...

bo2234 @ 8/26/2014 2:31 PM

What's the matter eric...need more stuff to send over the border?

Capt. Crunch @ 8/26/2014 4:14 PM

@eodk9trainer, Maybe you love Obama, but I don't. If you watch the news you would see that he is the meat head that started this Fed's investigation. So I will continue to say the truth about this meat head until he lives office.

Steve Rothstein @ 8/26/2014 6:02 PM

I think a review of the 1033 program is a good idea. I fully understand that the program has provided quite a few benefits to agencies, but there are also some drawbacks to the program. The military and law enforcement have two different missions with two different goals. Some military equipment may be useful but not all is.

For example, some of our urban areas have degenerated to the point where on some calls, police need a bullet proof vehicle. A surplus MRAP might be able to be repurposed and fill this mission, even if the full amount of protection it offers is not needed. But I do not see how an M113 APC would be justified, nor do I see the need for an MRAP in every town in the US.

I also freely admit that cops need rifles on patrol. I do not see any justification for fully automatic fire in law enforcement though. An M16 can be easily modified to fire semi-automatic only though. My last agency did this with the M16s we received under this program and then I do not see a problem with the program.

One of the problems with the program is the way the equipment is used. A SWAT team is not needed on nearly as many warrant calls as they seem to go on, but they have to justify the equipment. And, as one poster above pointed out, the need for camo and military style uniforms needs to be examined also.

I seriously question the adoption of some of the military tactics by police, but that is just tangentially related tot he program.

Overall, a review of the militarization of our police, through this program and others, is well justified in my opinion. That does not need that we need to stop the 1033 program, but it can be tweaked to improve it.

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