Here’s How Communities and City Councils Can Reject Trump’s Militarization of Local Police

Two weeks ago, President Trump issued an executive order that gave a push to local police militarization. Trump’s action rescinded an Obama-era policy meant to provide greater transparency and oversight around the Department of Defense 1033 program and other federal resources that provide military weapons to local police.

Contrary to what Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month before the Fraternal Order of Police, the world’s largest organization of sworn law enforcement officers, the Obama administration did not deny “life-saving gear” like “what they’re using in Texas right now.” The Obama administration prohibited only a few military weapons, like bayonets and grenade launchers.

The real centerpiece of the Obama reform was not prohibitions but checks on the types of military weapons law enforcement could get, like mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, grenades, and drones. The Obama administration’s reforms required that law enforcement verify with the federal government that training and oversight requirements were in place for the weapons of war it was soliciting from various federal agencies.

A critical component of the Obama-era policies required a local governing body to approve the military weapons local police sought from the federal government. This requirement allowed for community say as to whether or not they’d be policed with weapons of war. Let’s say your town wanted an MRAP. Local law enforcement would need to appeal to the city council, which would then say “yay” or “nay” after it heard from constituents and stakeholders — community members and law enforcement alike.

As the Obama administration believed, “requiring approval or concurrence by the governing body is a significant way to involve representatives of the community, through its elected leaders” in the decision to bring armored vehicles and flash bang grenades to town.

The ACLU and numerous other organizations from across the political spectrum have been advocating for local laws that enshrine the requirement that surveillance technologies — including those of military and intelligence-agency grade — may no longer be acquired or deployed by local police departments without city council approval. Beyond this approval requirement, the Community Control Over Police Surveillance (CCOPS) effort’s model bill also mandates that the process be highly transparent, maximize community input, focus on potential civil rights and civil liberties impacts, and requires continuing city council approval and continuing oversight. In just a little over a year, we have secured CCOPS laws in Seattle, Nashville, and Santa Clara County, California — home of Silicon Valley — and have active efforts underway in 18 additional cities.

The same rules and standards that apply to surveillance technologies should also apply to the acquisition and deployment of military grade equipment by local police forces. That is why we are unveiling a new Community Control Over Police Surveillance + Militarization (CCOPS+M) model bill. The legislation will function as a powerful check on Trump’s recent executive action — and other aspects of his political agenda — by requiring city council approval before local police acquire or deploy any military grade tactical equipment or surveillance technologies.

Placing a check on local police’s unilateral ability to decide whether to acquire and deploy military grade equipment and surveillance technologies — regardless of the source of funding or equipment — is critical for several reasons.

First, local police do not need U.S. military tactical equipment, like MRAPs and grenades, or C.I.A. surveillance technologies, like Stingray cell phone location trackers, in order to protect the public. These devices’ utility is limited, at best, and their broad use can only be rationalized if local police view their entire city’s population as prospective criminals or enemy combatants. Accordingly, the acquisition and deployment of this equipment creates unjustified and significant risks to the public’s welfare, including their physical and psychological well-being.

Second, the acquisition and deployment of military grade equipment and surveillance technologies pose a significant threat not only to the public’s welfare but also to their civil rights and civil liberties. And it is especially important in today’s political climate to recognize that certain groups — like immigrants, persons of color, certain religious communities, and political activists — have historically been and currently are far more likely to be targeted by military-grade tactical equipment and surveillance technologies than others. As such, these groups face even greater threats from their acquisition and deployment. Simply put, the threats these groups were facing were already extreme, and Trump’s executive order just made them worse.

Third, the cost of operating and maintaining “free” military equipment and surveillance technologies can be very high. For example, operating and maintaining police drones, body cameras, or MRAPs can easily cost millions of dollars a year. Whether you think such expenditures get in the way of investing in more important social and community development programs or in the way of a tax break, these costs should not be taken lightly.

Finally, CCOPS+M laws are justified by simple principles of good government. Government works best when it is transparent and subject to strong public participation. We already know that where local police have unilateral authority to acquire military equipment and surveillance technologies, they frequently choose to do so. Such approvals would not be as automatic if they were subject to public debate and city council consent. Insofar as we want our local government, including its police force, to act in accordance with the will of the people, it only makes sense for local laws to prohibit police departments from acquiring and deploying this equipment and technology without public input and city council approval.

Join us in demanding a CCOPS+M law in your city today.

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Nope

MRAPs are indeed state of the art protection vehicles, no doubt. However, the hype of police departments using these trucks to "suppress the people" is somewhat misguided.

One must remember the vehicle is designed to protect its occupants, that's it. They have no cannons or guns or even grenade launchers on them. Each vehicle has been "de-milled", devoid of any offensive capability.

No, on the other hand, it is imperviable to the common protester and rioter. This vehicle can ram, run over, or overcome many obstacles including human. Until the police are using these to ram into crowds of protesters in fine with it.

What cops don't need are full auto machine guns and explosives.

Look at the dude in Dallas that was blown the fuk up by a robot. Where was the negotiator? The Dallas negotiators where a robot with C4. And no, ooohh no, he didn't die immediately, he bled out slowly and was still bleeding out while being handcuffed. WTF public protectors. This is how you protect the mentally ill. Immediate death by explosive?

Anonymous

Could roll into the crowd of brawling protesters and blast REM's "Shiny, Happy, People Holding Hands" song at them until they can't take it anymore and go home. It would be fun to see Antifa lose it trying to get to the stereo and turn it off.

Antifa

We'll just put in ear plugs, done a mask and get started.

MRAPs and the like have nice big holes to stick steel pipes in around the steering wheels. Plus the wheels are pneumatic pressure and puncture proof, so use a 10mm hollow sharpened tube pieces to use as spike sticks.

Then Molotov cocktails help burn plastic speakers. Also, stink bombs stuffed into air vents are good. Also, paint ball guns using a mix of paint and fast drying plastic (to stop wipers) aimed at glass drive the occupants out.

Anonymous

At least it will keep you busy and out of trouble for a while. Idle hands are the devil's playthings, you know

Anonymous

Agreed in today's world MRAPSwere built for a limited purpose at the start of the war. While the military can give away whatever equipment it no longer uses MRAPS do not belong rolling down the streets of a local town. In today's world police do not need equipment like that to effectively do their jobs.

Good Service

I heard when police order you can rub the food on the floor before serving. Also, I heard you can pee in the coffee or drinks off cops in your drive through. I also heard you can snot or spit it the drinks. I also heard never do anything violent toward cops. Resist peacefully. Paint their cars with messages of love and peace, they hate this more than messages of hate like "pig" etc..

Resist peacefully but mindfully.

Rickey D. Holtsclaw

The gangs and individual criminals on our streets today are equipped with military style weapons, ammo and our law enforcement community should be equipped with the finest in armament necessary to do the job and keep our officers as safe as possible. As a retired 31-year veteran of the Houston PD, I strongly urge the ACLU to do what they do best, defend socialists-communists-liberal sexual perverts-abortionist advocating embicles...leave the policing to men and women of honor who love America and have America's best interest at heart.

Anonymous

"...defend socialists-communists-liberal sexual perverts-abortionist advocating embicles..." You sure are NOT what you said after: "leave the policing to men and women of honor who love America and have America's best interest at heart." You are suppose to serve and protect the community (ALL CITIZENS). You have no honor or have America's best interest at heart.

Anonymous

Your assessment is incorrect; the ACLU is a non-partisan organization. You dishonor yourself by being willfully blind and unkind. I do not represent the ACLU, this is my personal opinion.

Anonymous

Rickey D. Holtsclaw a retired cop and crazed religious nut:
https://rickeyholtsclaw.com/

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