By Jorge Vazquez
It is a safe feeling to know that the local law enforcement is here to protect the peace, but how much fire power is necessary to do so?
A grenade launcher should not be used to respond to something as menial as loitering.
Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order lifting the ban on military provided surplus for law enforcement on Program 1033.
The ban had been placed by the Obama Administration in 2015 following the militarized police response to the riots in Ferguson, Missouri.
The riots were sparked by the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014.
Military surplus refers to AR rifles, grenade launchers, tracked vehicles, ready-to-eat meals (MRE) and medical supplies.
Police officers are trained to defuse any situation with minimal use of force. Despite trigger-happy officers, this is still the standard set for law enforcement by the government, the state and the civilians they’re protecting.
Military weaponry and tracked vehicles aren’t necessary for local law enforcement and it seems like overkill. It’s not often a situation arises when police need a tank to defuse the situation. The times have also shown more cases of officers abusing their power. Give them a bigger gun and the show of force has been more extreme.
“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 at the time. “It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.”
Ever get the slightest bit paranoid when driving by a police car, even when the law hasn’t been broken?
One can only imagine the paranoia if there were armored personnel carriers (APC), high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HUMVEE), and mine resistant ambush protected vehicles ( MRAP) patrolling the streets.
If the police are armed with high-caliber rifles,grenade launchers and armored vehicles they will stop feeling like protectors of peace and instead feel like soldiers ready for opposition.
“We’re here to work with one another. Right?” said Deputy Sheriff Generalist Liz Elias from the ELAC Sheriff’s Station.
Being part of the community is a virtue that she and other officers hold dear, but the community can’t connect with police if they fear them.
Program 1033 does, however provide supplies that aren’t violent.
During the press conference where the lifted ban was announced, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told the press that Trump’s order, “will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence, and lawlessness to become the new normal.”
Most of the military surplus, such as vehicles and weapons, shouldn’t be necessary in the message Sessions and the Trump administration are trying to send, but medical supplies and tactical gear could prove useful. Since police are first responders, the probability that someone is hurt on the scene as well as the probability of police getting in harm’s way, is high.
Medical kits could stabilize the injured allowing them time to be transported and receive the proper attention they need.
Police should be given gear that truly saves lives instead of taking them.