Monday, May 18, 2015

Obama to bar military gear for cops: It's a 'defining moment for American policing'

President Obama on Monday is traveling to Camden, New Jersey, to announce new federal rules for police – including bans on certain types of military equipment.

The president's announcement comes on the heels of the White House creation of a task force to look at policing around the nation and determine recommendations for agencies to better, and more safely, serve their communities. Obama announced the task force after the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, that began over the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and then spread around the nation via a "Black Lives Matter" and "hands up, don't shoot" campaign.

In Camden, Obama will first visit with police at their headquarters and then head to a community center to speak with youth and deliver formal remarks, the New York Times reported.

"I'll highlight steps all cities can take to maintain trust between the brave law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line and the communities they're sworn to serve and protect," Obama said during a weekly address over the weekend, the Huffington Post reported.

Among the equipment police will no longer get from the federal government are armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, firearms and ammunition of .50 caliber or higher, grenade launchers, bayonets and camoflauge uniforms.

The feds are also reportedly looking at ways to recall such equipment that's already been distributed among police.

The federal government will further restrict the use of Humvees, certain types of manned aircraft, drones, some types of firearms and explosives, battering rams, helmets and shields. Beginning this fall, police will need special permission from the city or county governing authorities in order to obtain this equipment.

The full task force's report is due to be released Monday. Members of the panel said they came up with the list of banned equipment because "the substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items, which are seen as militaristic in nature, could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement," the Associated Press reported.

Another report from the 21st Century Policing task force includes a list of recommendations for police to incorporate to improve relations with community members. The White House said 21 police agencies around the country, including Camden's, have already agreed to collect certain never-before reported data on police interactions with citizens. Among the upcoming data collections: The number of stops police enact on citizens, and the number of officer shootings that occur in a given time frame.

"We are without a doubt sitting at a defining moment for American policing," said Ron Davis, director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Department of Justice, AP reported. "We have a unique opportunity to redefine our policing in our democracy, to ensure that public safety becomes more than the absence of crime, that it must also include the presence of justice."

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