Do Cops Need More Heavy Soldier Gear? Some Lawmakers Say Yes

news
Police hide behind a vehicle while getting pelted by rocks in Milwaukee, on August 14, 2016.
Associated Press photo by Jeffrey Phelps

Your local law enforcement agencies could have tracked armor, .50 caliber machine guns, and bayonets soon. In theory, at least.


House Republicans have introduced a bill aimed at restarting the transfer of military equipment to local and state law enforcement agencies under the federal 1033 program, according to the Washington Examiner. The program has come under fire in the past, most notably in 2014 after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, when military vehicles and heavily armed police were seen rolling through suburban streets.

The “Protecting Lives Using Surplus Equipment of 2017” or PLUS Act was proposed by Rep. John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican, and would undo most of a 2015 Obama executive order that prohibited federal agencies from providing local law enforcement with certain equipment. The bill would prohibit any regulation, rule, or policy issued after May 15, 2015, that limits the sale or donation of surplus property from the federal government to state and local law enforcement agencies. This would mean that the restrictions imposed under President Obama in 2015, would be lifted.

Related: What The Military Got Right, America’s Police Are Still Getting Wrong »

The list of equipment still prohibited under the 2015 executive order includes: tank-like tracked armored vehicles that provide ballistic protection to their occupants; certain camouflage uniforms, but not desert, woodland, or solid color uniforms; bayonets; arms and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher; grenade launchers; and weaponized aircraft or vehicles of any kind.

Coincidentally, mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, or MRAPs, a common sight during the latter years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have found their way into the hands of local law enforcement since 2015, because while they are heavily armored, they are wheeled, not tracked. However, as “controlled” military hardware under federal law, the transfer of MRAPs to state and local police is still limited.  

Other military items that are controlled — meaning the law enforcement agency requesting the gear must justify why they need, say, an MRAP in Garfield, New Jersey — are: armored personnel carriers; Humvees; 2.5-ton and 5-ton trucks or any vehicles with a breaching or entry apparatus; command and control vehicles; specialized firearms and ammunition; explosives and pyrotechnics such as flash bangs; battering rams; police batons; and riot shields and helmets.

Ratcliffe introduced his bill last year, but it didn’t get far, the Examiner reported. But now, with the backing of a Republican-controlled Congress and a presidential administration that’s been vocal in its support for equipping local police, the legislation appears could go much further, which means we might soon see .50-cals among the equipment transferred to local law enforcement.

Critics argue that heavy military hardware is inappropriate for domestic law enforcement, in part because police escalation of force differs so dramatically from military training and practices. Police training “by and large does not prepare policemen to manage high-stress situations the way the military prepares its soldiers,” two MIT researchers wrote in a Washington Post analysis of police militarization last year. “Police training tends to be short and classroom-based, and rarely emphasizes deescalation.” Ironically, the issue with police militarization may not be that there’s too little or too much of it, but that it’s not the right kind of militarization.

Editor's Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

In the wake of a heartwarming viral video that was featured everywhere from Good Morning America to the Daily Mail comes a disheartening revelation: The 84-year-old self-described Army nurse cranking out push-ups in her crisp Vietnam-era uniform might not be who she said she was.

Maggie DeSanti, allegedly a retired Army lieutenant colonel who rappeled out of helicopters in Vietnam, was captured in a video challenging a TSA agent to a push-up competition ahead of a flight to Washington, D.C., with the Arizona chapter of the organization Honor Flight on Oct. 16. The video soon was everywhere, and many who shared it, including Honor Flight, hailed DeSanti's toughness and spirit.

Read More Show Less

The summer before sixth grade, Cindy Dawson went to an air show with her father and was enamored by the flight maneuvers the pilots performed.

"I just thought that would be the coolest thing that anybody could ever do," she said, especially having already heard stories about her grandfather flying bombers during World War II with the Army Air Corps.

So by the first day of school, she had already decided what she wanted to be when she grew up.

Read More Show Less
(ABC News)

Peach schnapps, sex on the beach, piña colada may be familiar cocktails to anyone who's spent an afternoon (or a whole day) getting plastered on an ocean-side boardwalk, but they're also specialty desserts at Ray's Boozy Cupcakes, Etc, a bakery in Voorhees, New Jersey run by a 93-year-old World War II veteran named Ray Boutwell.

Read More Show Less
Instagram/US Coast Guard

A former senior Coast Guard official has been accused of shoplifting from a Philadelphia sex shop.

Rear Adm. Francis "Stash" Pelkowski (Ret.) was accused of stealing a tester item from Kink Shoppe on Oct. 8, according to an Instagram post by the store that appeared online two days later. In the post, which included apparent security camera footage of the incident, a man can be seen looking at products on a counter before picking up an item and placing it in his pocket before turning and walking away.

The Instagram post identified the man as Pelkowski, and said it wished him "all the best in his retirement, a sincere thank you for your service, and extreme and utter disappointment in his personal morals."

Read More Show Less

SAN DIEGO —The Marines say changes in the way they train recruits and their notoriously hard-nosed drill instructors have led to fewer incidents of drill instructor misconduct, officials told the Union-Tribune.

Their statement about training followed an Oct. 5 Washington Post report revealing that more than 20 Marines at the San Diego boot camp have been disciplined for misconduct since 2017, including cases of physical attacks and racist and homophobic slurs. The story also was published in the Union-Tribune.

Read More Show Less