His pardon last week of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio gave police across America a new license to lock up Latinos; now President Trump wants to arm the cops with weapons and equipment designed to make war rather than keep the peace.
Monday’s announcement that the Trump administration is lifting restrictions on the transfer of used military equipment to police departments will only deepen the mistrust between communities of color and the police agencies that are supposed to protect them. And no one will be safer.
Minority communities have plenty of reasons to dislike the police and mistrust the criminal justice system. Police departments have a long history of mistreating and dehumanizing people of color; our prisons are crowded with young, African-American men doing time for crimes that typically get white offenders put on probation - if they’re prosecuted at all. Arming cops with high-powered assault rifles and equipping them with armored vehicles and attack helicopters only contributes to that that distrust and as former President Obama observed "can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message."
Concerns about the militarization of the police mushroomed following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager killed in 2014 by then-police officer Darren Wilson. The protests that followed in Ferguson, MO were met not with an unbiased police presence, there to protect all involved and keep the peace, but with military grade weapons and the force of an occupying army.
The nationally broadcast conflict called into question how police forces gained access to assault rifles and other military style weapons, along with armored vehicles.
What was discovered is a program called “1033”, passed in 1989, that gave the Pentagon the ability to sell surplus and outdated (but still lethal) weaponry and other items to local police forces to assist with the War on Drugs.
The War on Drugs is inextricably linked the mass incarceration of people of color, and is responsible for an almost 500% increase in U.S. incarceration since 1985, despite falling crime rates.
In 2015, President Obama issued a mostly symbolic executive order designed to allow police to continue receiving excess military supplies they might legitimately need -- like jeeps, life rafts and bomb-disposal equipment - while ending transfers of tracked vehicles, grenade launchers and armed aircraft, among other things. President Trump’s roll back of this executive order is just another example of how this administration is neglecting government oversight, particularly when it comes to protecting minorities.
Issues: More Democracy Reforms