[JURIST] The Obama administration [official website] on Monday announced a ban on federal transfers of certain military-style equipment to local police forces. The ban, recommended [text, PDF] by a task-force created [executive order] in January, includes tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, .50-caliber and higher ammunition, and some types of camouflage, and sets up policing standards for other equipment. Speaking at the Ray and Joan Kroc Center [official website] in Camden, New Jersey, Obama made clear that this measure is part of an effort to ease tensions between local police forces and minority communities, stating:
We’ve seen how militarized gear sometimes gives people a feeling like they are an occupying force as opposed to a part of the community there to protect them. Some equipment made for the battlefield is not appropriate for local police departments.
Opponents deem the measure an overreaction, emphasizing that most equipment received from the military is administrative or defensive in nature.
Announcing the measure in Camden, Obama highlighted the progress [TIME report] the city has made integrating the police force into the community, which stands in stark contrast to the recent crises in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, among other cities. Earlier this month US Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a federal civil rights investigation [JURIST report] into Baltimore’s police. The week before, the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City charged six police officers [JURIST report] with crimes including murder and manslaughter over the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray while he was in police custody. Earlier this year Judge Edgar Dickson of the South Carolina Circuit Court declared a mistrial [JURIST report] in the murder case against a former police chief for the 2011 killing of an unarmed black man. Last year a grand jury decided not to indict [JURIST report] the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Micheal Brown, causing mass protests and violence in the Ferguson community. The case had reached international news with AI reporting [JURIST report] human rights abuses by Ferguson Police in late October. In early October a federal judge ruled [JURIST report] that the police tactics used on protesters was unconstitutional and issued a preliminary injunction. The American Civil Liberties Union also published a report [JURIST report] arguing that increased militarization of police forces puts citizens at risk rather than protects them.