Ferguson policeman (courtesy firstlook.org)

“President Barack Obama has ordered a review of programs allowing for state and local enforcement to buy military equipment,” cnn.com reports, somehow forgetting to use the words “at no cost.” A “senior administration official” made the announcement today, in the wake of the President’s post-Ferguson promise for a bi-partisan look at the current military -> police transfer of armament. The White House will lead the review, under the auspices of the Domestic Policy Council. That’s the quango established by Executive Order in 1993, chaired by the Prez, comprised of . . .

Vice President; Secretary of Health and Human Services; Attorney General; Secretary of Labor; Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Secretary of the Interior; Secretary of Education; Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Secretary of Agriculture; Secretary of Transportation; Secretary of Commerce; Secretary of Energy; Secretary of the Treasury; Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers; Director of the Office of Management and Budget; Assistant to the President for Economic Policy; Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy; Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of National Service; Senior Advisor to the President for Policy Development; Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy; AIDS Policy Coordinator; and such other officials of Executive departments and agencies as the President may, from time to time designate.

And thousands of assistants and administrative staff. But wait! There’s more! Also in on the review: the National Security Council, which includes . . .

The Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the statutory military advisor to the Council, and the Director of National Intelligence is the intelligence advisor. The Chief of Staff to the President, Counsel to the President, and the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy are invited to attend any NSC meeting. The Attorney General and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget are invited to attend meetings pertaining to their responsibilities. The heads of other executive departments and agencies, as well as other senior officials, are invited to attend meetings of the NSC when appropriate.

Did I mention the Office of Management and Budget? Or the fact that the review will be held in coordination with Congress? Them too, apparently. Here’s what’s on the agenda:

— Whether such programs and funding are appropriate

— Whether state and local enforcement agencies have the necessary training and guidance after getting such equipment

— Whether the federal government is sufficiently auditing the use of equipment obtained through federal programs and funding

What are the odds that all involved will get to number one and just say no to MRAPs, fully-automatic rifles, flash bangs, etc. for the local po-po? A lot less than the odds that military suppliers will pick up their phones Monday morning and have a quiet word with friendly Beltway politicians.

Then again, Congress is threatening to act on its own to stop the transfer of military kit to police forces around the country. Last week, washingtonpost.com reported that . . .

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has called for reforms to the Defense Department program. [A week ago] Friday, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) indicated that he would call for a review of the program. “Congress established this program out of real concern that local law enforcement agencies were literally outgunned by drug criminals,” he wrote in a statement. “We intended this equipment to keep police officers and their communities safe from heavily armed drug gangs and terrorist incidents.”

What a difference a police shooting makes.

On June 19, the House voted down on an amendment to a Department of Defense appropriations billRep. Alan Grayson’s bill (D-Fla.) was designed to kill the Department of Defense’s 1033 program sending local cops “aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles), armored vehicles, grenade launchers, silencers, toxicological agents (including chemical agents, biological agents, and associated equipment), launch vehicles, guided missiles, ballistic missiles, rockets, torpedoes, bombs, mines, or nuclear weapons.”

Guess how that vote broke down, bi-partisan-wise? No need. Check it out:

(courtesy washingtonpost.com)

We shall see what happens to this latest effort to stop the equipment transfer. But what of the cultural changes and strategic emphasis on SWAT teams, enabled by The War on Drugs, no-knock raid-friendly judges, asset confiscation laws and the large number of military personnel entering the police? Of that we’ve heard nothing. [h/t DrVino]

91 Responses to BREAKING: Obama Orders Police Militarization Review

  1. I’ve said it for a long time. Any civilian police agency should only be allowed weapons that the man on the street can also buy and use.

    No knock warrants should only be used in extreme circumstances and with extreme oversight.

    Armored vehicles have a place in policing. But they should only come out once shots have been fired and in extreme cases like the North Hollywood bank robbery.

    The same with SWAT. They should only be used in true high risk events. Not routine day to day warrant service.

    I am a strong supporter of the rank and file cops in this country. But the pols and cheifs that run them, not so much.

    • Then how do you expect these reasonable changes in equipment and police policies to come into effect? It starts with the leadership, which cannot be trusted. We could write it down, and demand compliance, but I’ve heard mention made before someplace that sometimes the government doesn’t always abide by the letter, let alone spirit, of even plainly written firearms laws.

      • You change the leadership. Mid terms are coming. Crush the dems and let them know why in no uncertain terms. If they want to persist in being the party against freedom and civil rights after that they will have earned their exile.

        And equally important. Whoever we support in the mid terms must be made to understand they have one term to make changes in the right direction or they’re toast.

        Can we pull this off? Judging by the infighting that goes on here in the comments, I doubt it. Bringing about this sort of change will require we POTG to put aside our differences and work together.

        I’m not holding my breath.

        • JWM, the problem with that is that the Republicans are just as much to blame for this state of affairs as the Dems. Everyone wants to be “tough on crime”.

        • Change in leadership is essential, but it must be changed to something better and under improved rules, not just a recycling of the same old garbage acting under the same old incentives.

          I’ve run the numbers and posted them here before, particularly with regard to CT and MD, but it probably applies just about everywhere. The biggest problem is that conservatives just stay home at election time, especially off year elections, while the liberals and dependency class show up to recharge the trough.

          It isn’t so much that conservatives can’t reach consensus. It’s that they won’t get off their sofas. We’re offering answer to the question “What if they held a revolution and nobody came?”, which is: we’d forfeit.

        • If the GOP was the only game in town you’d be right. I was registered gop and switched to independent. Every time the gop calls my house for a survey or money request I explain to them why I’m no longer a member. And I explain to them how they can get me back.

          At the mid terms we sweep the gop into office and we all email and call and tell them. 1 term to make real changes or next time we support a 3rd party.

          Sounds like a better plan to retake our country than a civil war. Probably doomed to failure. Too many of my fellow gun owners are unwilling to compromise on other issues.

        • You think your magical Reps are going to fix it when a lot of them are hawks and can’t wait to go to war with the next boogyman they can make up. No neither side is going to fix it and nothing will come out of it. There is no turning back like or not this is the future vote for the vigina hating Reps or the Gun hating Dems its all the same the police state is coming so pray away as much as you want its not going to work.

        • “No neither side is going to fix it and nothing will come out of it.”

          You do realize using a double negative makes you look like the complete and utter f*ckwit that you are, don’t you?

        • It’s also harder for conservatives to vote, since they have to take time off work. Democrats are more likely to have their Tuesdays wide open.

    • We shouldn’t give arms to local police that can’t mount and zero their scopes correctly. I’m not trying to nitpick, take a close look at the picture, there is ZERO chance that the scope is leveled against the top rail of the rifle. It’s definitely off by about 5 degrees. (yes I see that the rifle is canted too, but look at the top turret vs the rifle)

      If the scope is off, the zero/drop table is off, and putting innocent lives at risk.

      What’s next, a swat team mounting a sight backwards and not zeroing before a call?……oh wait

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2294225/SWAT-officer-attracts-ridicule-s-pictured-rifle-sight-backwards.html

    • First action in 6 years that I agree with our mofo jackwad president.
      Can’t think of a more richly deserving target.
      Time for the pendulum to swing the other way.

      If the current cops don’t like it they know where the door is.
      Plenty of other people that will hire on for 20 years of doughnut patrol and a fat pension with the only provision that they double check the address before kicking down the door and to avoid the crib when they throw in a flashbang.

  2. The Obama administration should order a review of programs allowing for Iraqi and ISIS terrorist forces to be given military equipment.

  3. Don’t cops in SWAT carry Binoculars? Geeze…watched news time and again where these guys were scoping folks.

  4. This is rich. Bush was phasing this surplus weapons program down. Barry put it on steroids and is now going to review his own actions? Yea.

    • Lol, you are crazy. Militarization started when 9/11 happened and Bush signed the patriot act into law. So being so ignorant and blind. All you right wingers are all the same, fast to talk but no time to actually research and get facts

      • Thanks so much for your razor sharp wit. Where you to actually spend some time here, you would realize that the majority of TTAG commentors vehemently oppose statism and government over reach in all of its forms. That would include high taxes, bureaucracy, and the typical bullshit about how we must have our freedoms restricted while our elitist “political superiors” play another round of golf and blow our taxes on their pet projects.

        We are not taken in by the typical lines of the Republican (which can be bad) or the Democrat (which is virtually always worse, and also comes with higher taxes) parties. You’ll find a great deal of diversity here. Also, I am extremely right wing, kinda like our wacky Founding Fathers, but the majority of my opinions are either well-informed or open to change when presented with facts. The authors of this site, and most of the commentors, myself included, will retract incorrect statements. Good luck finding that wisdom on the liberal progressive website that you just came from.

      • I guess you’re too young to remember the formation and proliferation of militarized SWAT teams in the 1980s under Reagan and Bush Sr. and the continued evolution of those policies under Cltinton and Obama as well.

        Enough partisan BS. Both parties are complicit, and the fact that both left and right leaning citizens agree now that it is a serious problem should tell you something.

        Instead, what is your solution? You OK with people getting roughed up by the police, so long as they’re “right wingers?”

    • Mine got 4 helicopters at $92,000 each

      over 250 RIFLE,5.56 MILLIMETER at $450 bucks a pop…

      And a whole lotta other stuff.

      • Mine got 25, 5.56 rifles
        10, 7.62 rifles
        a panel truck @ 44k
        an armored truck@ 65k
        7700 lbs of 5.56 brass
        6, 45’s
        6, 38’s

      • Just like Mosins and SKS’ there needs to be something to hang on the bayonet mount. They also came with a rod and cleaning kit!

    • Maricopa, Az spent about a Gazillion dollars on stuff.

      Obviously some of that can be justified but a ton can’t. Sheriff Joe.. lol

      • If I was carrying an AR I’d want a bayonet with it. Gives me something to defend myself with when the AR craps out.

        • Once you go AR, you never go back. Just get a decent one that’s mil-spec or better, keep it halfway clean, and try not to blow your ammo budget.

          And you’re always welcome to go back to all sorts of other guns.

      • Fixed bayonets are great for crowd control. You just have to make sure the troops that have them know how to employ them if they need to. I think the Army stopped training with bayonets in the ’90s, so unless troops have had unit level training, they’re untrained. Note I said “troops” – I can’t see how bayonets in the hands of untrained law enforcement help, either.

        • I believed the Army dropped bayonet training more recently, in 2011 or so. Going through basic in 2004, we still had classes and an obstacle course for bayonet drills.

    • My county police department received:
      – 1ONLY COMPLETE COMBAT/ASSAULT/TACTICAL WHEELED VEHICLES (MRAP?) @ $460k
      – 1 Defibrillator @ $580
      – 15 7.62mm rifles @ $138 each WOW!
      – 2 EOD bots @ $10k each
      – 1 Sewing machine lol @ $918
      – 2 reflex sights @ $328 each
      – 3 SHELTER,ICS IMPROVED COMBAT SHELTER (huh?) @ $297 each
      – 5 Various cargo/utility trucks @ $220k total.

      We need to be wary of the tactical sewing machine especially. Now our police have the ability to double stitch the seams.

    • Gawd your local cops must suck a lot of federal ….

      … all my county got was a couple shotguns and a half dozen pistols valued at $50.

  5. all of that homeland security crack cocaine, I mean grant money, will get re-allocated from MRAPs to body cameras. My purchase of shares of TASR ain’t so far fetched now, eh Mr. Bond?

  6. Now I’m conflicted
    Iffen Obammy’s fer it, I’m agin it.
    Anna ifen he’s agin it, den Im fer it!

    My head be hurtin!

  7. A good start would be a return to second chance tipes of vests worn under the normal shirts. Black milspec heavy vests with strike plates should be for swat and we should only need swat for the largest city forces as for camo gear of any sort it sends the wrong message.

    But the point about only reform of the management of forces will bring about an improvement of the way things have become is the important factor to Keep in mind…

    As fo goverment quangos ever doing anything positive that’s about as likely as a ice cream stand in hell

  8. From the article, “What a difference a police shooting makes.”

    I disagree. What a difference We the People make when we do something more than just writing letters to Congressman.

    Note: I do NOT condone the looting and destruction of private businesses — they are not responsible for police departments that condone criminal behavior among their ranks.

  9. Was it the police who burnt businesses to the ground in Ferguson? No
    Was it police who chose to turn a protest into a violent riot? No
    Did the police stop the violence and protect life and property from rioters? Yes.

    Why are we blaming the people we hired to protect us for using the tools for the job?

    • Why are we blaming the people we hired to protect us for using the tools for the job?

      The supreme court has ruled the police have no duty whatsoever to protect us.

      Furthermore, cops don’t usually protect “regular citizens”- they protect themselves.

      Was it police who chose to turn a protest into a violent riot? No

      Partially Yes. By past events and past discretion in regards to the use of force, mostly stemming from the police department ideal that officer’s safety is more important than “regular-citizen” safety. People are tired of getting beaten up and they have found that burning quicktrips and overturning vehicles seems to be the only solution to get attention to the problem.

      With zero police accountability, psychopaths are naturally drawn to the position of “police officer.” Aggressive bullies, psychopaths, and people who require physical aggression as a psychological release love the position of “police officer” and naturally are drawn to that position. The riots and protests, despite their legality, partially stem in my opinion, from this type of behavior.

      This was an entertaining read for me:
      http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2013/09/16/police-are-more-dangerous-to-the-public-than-are-criminals-paul-craig-roberts/

      • Well said its up to the citizen to protect them selves from the police as well as the criminals no one should think that anyone owns anyone in America anything. Everyone is an enemy of everyone else now that is a great place to live. Empathy is for the weak.

    • We aren’t.
      We’re asking:
      1. Given the relative infrequency of such events/jobs, how much of this equipment is required on a regional level?
      2. Can police be trusted to use sniper weaponry, fully automatic weapons, armored vehicles, intrusive information gathering/drones, and such only for the appropriate job?
      3. Do we feel that police have enough training to use specialized equipment?

      I for one think the answer is no. This is not a condemnation of Ferguson cops per-say. It’s a comment on the fact that a very small police force had access to such military surplus in the first place. Swat, hostage rescue, these units have constant training to deal with special circumstances, make the right decision at critical moments, and properly manage difficult/stressful circumstances. The discussion is as much about the police as tools as the equipment they use. I feel like the Ferguson PD did the best they could with the tools they had under difficult circumstances. They made some bad calls from the chief down to the guy who was pointing his patrol rifle at unarmed reporters. To me, I feel there should be maybe a swat team per region, per large city, not per every tiny ten man force out there. Give the force the tools for the job they’re trained and are capable of doing. Don’t give them tools for a job that requires a different kind of specialist.

    • Was it the police who burnt businesses to the ground in Ferguson? No
      Was it police who chose to turn a protest into a violent riot? No
      Did the police stop the violence and protect life and property from rioters? Yes.
      Why are we blaming the people we hired to protect us for using the tools for the job?
      1. No, they just roved the streets in disorganized goon squads throwing flashbangs, kidnapping reporters, and pointing rifles at unarmed citizens,
      2. If you ever want to know who really wanted a riot to start, just look at who came dressed for it. (hint: it wasn’t the regular citizens)
      3. Again, No. Show me one documented case of police employees helping a citizen defend their store or property.

      Police employees work for the State and serve the State’s interests exclusively. They have exactly zero responsibility to protect you or me, as the Supreme Court has upheld. Stop being ignorant.

  10. It appears Dems would like to stop sending military gear to local law enforcement, and Repubs would like to continue to send the equipment. Who is correct?

  11. As others have mentioned, it’s more the tactics and the mindset than the equipment that represents the problem.

    Although, it is galling to see gear which was paid for by the taxpayer and which the military refuses to sell back to the taxpayer as surplus being gifted to state and local government.

  12. I guess the DHS response to that report on right wing extremist terrorist types kind of backfired, didn’t it?

  13. . “Congress established this program out of real concern that local law enforcement agencies were literally outgunned by drug criminals,” Standard propaganda. Most criminals are not that heavily armed. Yeah, we have North Hollywood, but that type of thing is very rare in the real world.

    • This is how many people that suggest carrying to defend yourself see America. Drug dealers, gang bangers on every street corner waiting to rob or kill you. It’s so delusional, false sense of security.

      • Except for the tens of thousands of people that defend thier lives and property with firearms every year. Guns in private hands are a net benefit to society, that is abundantly clear by any measure. Even the staunchest gun grabber can’t truthfully deny it. Guns in government hands, that’s something we can debate.

      • I defy you to provide evidence for your claim. The only reason I have ever heard anyone state for carrying a gun, whether explaining their own carry or pontificating on the subject, has been mere uncertainty. I have NEVER heard ANYONE express a fear that bad guys were everywhere and they would definitely be encountering one at any moment.

        Many people weigh the overall improbability of needing a firearm with the astronomic consequences should they need one and not have one, some choose not to carry (I have not gotten a permit yet) and others choose to do so. But, as a gun owner, who has gun related conversations privately with other gun owners who are close friends, I have never heard one express paranoia. I have frequently heard anti-gun folks express paranoia, though.

  14. “Hey guys, I have to put on this little ‘review’ show to make it look like I give a crap about the militarized police after Ferguson, but don’t worry, the ‘review’ will come out just how we want it.”

  15. I’m sure that this review will be as penetrating and bipartisan as the Justice Department’s review of Fast & Furious.

  16. Interesting that no one felt the need to call for reviews after the Bundy ranch incident, but don’t let the same equipment be used in Ferguson.

  17. LOL..too funny, because most of the stuff they are pedaling are crappy M16a1’s with 20″ barrels, the occasional MRAP and some rusty helmets. EVERYTHING the guy in the picture has is commercial. Silly boys.,,

  18. It’s not the hardware so much as the way its used. 60,000 SWAT raids and counting? Cops kicking in your door, shooting your dog, terrifying your kids, wrecking your house . . . and high-fiving each other until, oh gosh, they figure out they’re at the wrong address or they hand you a code violation summons for not mowing your lawn? It’s police practices that are the problem and that’s going to take a lot more than a bunch of appointed bureaucrats and politicians sitting around a table talking to solve. Changing police organizational culture is what is needed and that’s seriously hard, if not impossible, to do.

    But, the pols are most likely going to get it wrong. Last night Hannity started to discuss police militarization, got a bit puzzled about which way to go with it, and then reverted to a nice, safe police-need-the-equipment-to-keep-us-safe spin. Typical establishment twaddle. I turned him off.

  19. Politics aside, if the feds dont reign in this militarization Cops are going to be at war with armed Americans

  20. The corrupt industry-owned political elite voted for continued police militarization. Big surprise. The 2nd amendment is SO out of date!

  21. Whatever agreement that comes out I hope it forces bodycam and car cameras across the whole spectrum of police. Also cameras inside SWAT meeting/planning rooms and SWAT vehicles.

  22. Militarization is just a symptom of a greater disease in our country. People (often poor people) are regularly turned in to criminals by ridiculous laws that are either widely disrespected (e.g. war on drugs) or cryptic/unknown (e.g. disorderly conduct). Police have to enforce stupid laws, which leads people to distrust the police because they know that interaction with a police officer increases their probability of incarceration or death. With all of the youtube videos of police escalation tactics and bad shoots, people are genuinely afraid of police.

    If people believed cops were actually around to keep neighborhoods safe from thugs, rather than bust people for petty vices, they might treat cops with a little more respect.

    • Agreed, it is also telling that my uncle, who is a sheriffs deputy, says that he wants little to do with the municipal police where he lives because he thinks the are nothing more than thugs in uniform.

  23. It don’t mean nuthin’. Anytime there’s a commission instead of a decision, it’s dead. Doesn’t matter, Republicans or Democrats.

    Did I mention the police will kill you!

  24. I have only one question, and I have not heard it discussed anywhere –

    How much of this surplus military equipment and how many MRAPs were offered to the Border Patrol?

  25. The alternative to the police getting the free military gear is that the military gear will be destroyed and the taxpayer will foot the bill for the police to purchase similar new body armor, rifles, armored vehicles, etc. I’m all for the police having silencers to protect the hearing of themselves and bystanders, grenade launchers which are used to fire tear gas and smoke grenades and the like, and armored vehicles so that they can safely cross the line-of-fire of a dangerous suspect. I don’t need to imagine a fantastical anti-terrorism scenario for the police to legitimately utilize this equipment. A small-town bank robbery or hostage situation could easily justify the use of most of the equipment, most of which is available to the public. The public and police should generally be able to use the same tools.

  26. One thing is perfectly clear, we need to raise taxes in order to pay for this stuff and we need to use it more often in order to justify the expenditure. there’s nothing wrong with the use of ilitary equipment in the civilian arena. It just needs better articulation after the usage.

  27. This is from the guy and DOJ head that gave guns to a know drug cartel to kill innocent people in another country and got Americans killed with the weapons.

  28. There’s a good populist president, leading from the rear and out behind every major issue of the day.

  29. If we can’t cut off the supply line of MRAPS I’d at least like to see LOCALLY ELECTED police chiefs versus the appointment structure we have now. Having leaders who are held accountable for their actions by local voters versus “leaders” taking orders from on high….. That sounds like a good start to me.

    I’d also be willing to wager that most good cops(the majority OF cops) would support that action as well. More police work, less pandering and bureaucracy.

    Maybe a simple redefinition of “protect and serve” to specify protecting and serving the actual people NOT the establishment of the law as it seems to be now.

    • We do have locally elected law enforcement.
      .
      They are called Sheriffs! Most of whom applaud the 2nd Amendment.
      .
      They are the chief law enforcement officer in the County in which they are elected and are responsible directly and solely to the electorate.

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