Pres­i­dent clears the way for po­lice to ob­tain mil­i­tary gear

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — Po­lice de­part­ments soon will have ac­cess to grenade launch­ers, high-cal­iber weapons and other sur­plus U.S. mil­i­tary gear af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed an or­der Mon­day re­viv­ing a Pen­tagon pro­gram that civil rights groups say in­flames ten­sions be­tween of­fi­cers and their com­mu­ni­ties.

Former Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had sharply cur­tailed the pro­gram in 2015 amid an out­cry about the heav­ily-armed po­lice re­sponse to pro­test­ers af­ter sev­eral po­lice killings of black men in Fer­gu­son, Mo., and other cities. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion main­tains the pro­gram is needed to pro­tect public safety and sup­port state and lo­cal po­lice.

Restor­ing the pro­gram will “en­sure that you can get the life­sav­ing gear that you need to do your job,” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions told a cheer­ing crowd dur­ing a na­tional con­ven­tion of the Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice in Nashville, Tenn. The group, Amer­ica’s largest or­ga­ni­za­tion of rank-and-file of­fi­cers, en­dorsed Trump for pres­i­dent af­ter he promised to re­vamp the pro­gram.

Ses­sions said re­stric­tions im­posed by Obama went too far.

“We will not put su­per­fi­cial con­cerns above public safety,” he said.

In is­su­ing the or­der, Trump is ful­fill­ing a cam­paign pledge made as he de­picted crime as ram­pant and po­lice forces un­der­cut by un­fair crit­i­cism, with Obama fail­ing to sup­port them suf­fi­ciently. Trump, feel­ing in­creas­ingly un­der at­tack in re­cent weeks, has dou­bled down on ap­peals to core sup­port­ers. Last week, he par­doned con­tro­ver­sial former Ari­zona sher­iff Joe Ar­paio, who was found guilty of de­fy­ing a judge’s or­der to stop racially pro­fil­ing Lati­nos.

Ses­sions has been steadily restor­ing tough-on-crime poli­cies while re­shap­ing the way his Jus­tice De­part­ment en­forces civil rights law, par­tic­u­larly in the ar­eas of polic­ing, in ways that made ad­vo­cates ner­vous.

Civil lib­er­ties groups and some law­mak­ers as­sailed Trump’s or­der as a sign of the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of lo­cal po­lice, ar­gu­ing the equip­ment en­cour­ages and es­ca­lates vi­o­lent con­fronta­tions with of­fi­cers.

“Ten­sions be­tween law en­force­ment and com­mu­ni­ties re­main high, yet the pres­i­dent and the at­tor­ney gen­eral are giv­ing the po­lice mil­i­tary-grade weaponry in­stead of prac­ti­cal, ef­fec­tive ways to pro­tect and serve ev­ery­one,” said Kanya Ben­nett, leg­isla­tive coun­sel for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union.

SES­SIONS

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