The Trump administration on Monday announced that it was reversing an Obama-era policy that restricted the ability of police departments to obtain surplus military equipment such as armored vehicles and grenade launchers.
As NBC News reports, the Obama administration first curtailed the program to give police departments surplus military equipment after it concluded that the use of armored vehicles during the protests against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri, only inflamed tensions.
However, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Monday that limiting local police departments’ access to military equipment endangered officers’ personal safety.
“One sheriff told me earlier this year about how, due to the prior administration’s restrictions, the federal government made his department return an armored vehicle that can change the dynamics of an active shooter situation,” he said.
But Janai Nelson, the NAACP Legal Defense fund’s associate general counsel, slammed the move and said that police departments should be there to serve and protect communities — and should not see themselves as military occupiers.
“[This change] puts more firepower in the hands of police departments that remain largely untrained on matters of racial bias and endangers the public,” he said. “Inviting the use of military weaponry against our domestic population is nothing short of recasting the public as an enemy.”