Donald Trump Executive Order Reinstates 1033 Program To Ramp Up Police Militarization

Sending heavily armed officers into routine police situations almost invariably inflames tensions and creates the very situation the intervention was supposed to diffuse.

Greg Doucette has a problem. #FSCK ‘Em All — his 30-minute podcast — is never 30 minutes long.

That’s because Doucette uses his weekly check on America’s legal system to detail cases of abuse by police forces against the very people they’re sworn to protect. He never lacks for material, and his 30-minute update often runs to 70 or 80 minutes.

Right-wing pundits might quickly label Doucette another bleeding heart liberal. And they’d be wrong. The conservative libertarian simply believes that power corrupts, and the American legal system is rife with abuse. He uses #FSCK to fight back.

Talk about strange bedfellows. It appears that President Donald Trump has done the impossible by uniting civil libertarians and civil rights advocates under one banner in signing an executive order removing an Obama era regulation that de-militarized the nation’s police forces.

Attorney-General Jefferson Sessions announced the reversal in late August before the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) convention — a very friendly audience for an incredibly controversial policy switch.

“We will not put superficial concerns above public safety,” Sessions told the gathering. “The executive 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. And we will save taxpayer money in the meantime.

“We have your back,” Sessions concluded, “and you have our thanks.”

Law enforcement agencies hail policy changes as a major victory

Not surprisingly, law enforcement agencies were thrilled. “Protective equipment is essential to officer and public safety in a wide variety of life and death situations,” FOP president, Chuck Canterbury, told The Washington Post. “This decisive action by President Trump fulfills a promise he made to the FOP during the campaign, and police officers nationwide are grateful to him. …The previous administration was more concerned about the image of law enforcement being too ‘militarized’ than they were about our safety.”

The 1033 program, as it’s called, permits the U.S. government to supply military-grade weapons, equipment, and vehicles to police forces around the country at the state and municipal level. This provision was included in the National Defense Authorization Act passed in 1997 during the Clinton administration. Twenty years in, the program has changed the face of modern policing.

The Obama administration did subtly alter many “tough on crime” initiatives of earlier presidencies, but one of his boldest moves was to curtail the 1033 program after heavy assault equipment was used against Black Lives Matter protestors in Ferguson, MO. The optics were frighteningly bad. The Ferguson police department looked as if were about to launch an invasion of a hostile foreign power when — ostensibly at least — they were on the scene to keep the peace.

So many police forces in America are armed to the teeth

Law enforcement is a difficult and dangerous job, and no one would suggest otherwise. The police need the tools to do their work as safely as possible. But it’s not wrong to ask if heavy military equipment like rocket launchers, assault vehicles and assault weapons make Americans more or less safe. How many armed fortresses or roadside bombs are police officers in Columbia, South Carolina, likely to encounter during any given year? Yet the city, with a population of 135,000, boasts a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP) that can be topped with a 50-caliber machine gun. Even better, for the city’s bottom line, the assault vehicle was virtually donated to the community by Fort Bragg under the federal 1033 program.

With no trace of irony, Columbia bills itself the “Capital of Southern Hospitality.” Just don’t step out of line.

And that’s the problem. If Americans think the situations in Columbia or Keene, NH or Ogden, UT are distant outliers, they’re wrong. Since 9/11, police departments in the US have used Department of Homeland Security funding to procure nearly $40 billion in military-grade equipment. That’s more than three times the annual military budget of Canada.

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