Over the past several months, national conversations over the militarization
of police have become hot button issues. With recent events adding fuel
to the fire - including large scale protests in Ferguson, Missouri and
other places across the country - many believed it was time to take action.
On Monday, President Obama did just that by ordering the federal government
to stop distributing some military equipment to local law enforcement
agencies in the U.S.
Here are a few key details about the measure:
- Supporters of the order cited social consequences of militarized police,
stating that it can give communities a sense that law enforcement is an
occupying force rather than a part of community that exists to protect
and serve. Militarization, they believe, can inadvertently send the wrong message.
- The executive order - which was prompted by recommendations from officials
at the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland security -
will only stop the exchange of some military equipment, including bayonets,
grenade launchers, weaponized aircraft, and track-run armored vehicles.
Local police departments will still have access to riot gear, specialized
firearms, and armored trucks.
- According to some critics, the measure falls short in its goal to change
public perception that police are not a military organization working
against rather than for communities. Other critics believe it is a step
in the wrong direction that opens the door to an increase in crime.
Although there are conflicting opinions surrounding the order, there is
certainly no doubt that law enforcement and community relations have become
a strained issue of national concern. Aside and apart from the larger
conversation - one that is complex and difficult to solve - the issue
raises questions as to whether interactions between law enforcement and
criminal suspects at the local level will be strained - and whether those
accused of crimes will still have their rights protected.