Attorney General Jeff Sessions officially announced the reversal of an Obama administration policy that banned local law enforcement from purchasing or receiving used military equipment from the Pentagon.
"I am here to announce that President Trump is issuing an executive order that will make it easier to protect yourselves and your communities. He is rescinding restrictions from the prior administration that limited your agencies' ability to get equipment through federal programs, including life saving gear like Kevlar vests and helmets and first responder and rescue equipment like what they’re using in Texas right now," Sessions said.
"Some of these programs, like the Department of Defense's 1033 program that Congress signed into law more than 25 years ago, have recycled more than $5.4 billion in used gear and equipment that taxpayers had already purchased, and made it available for your agencies to re-purpose it in the fight against terrorism, crime, and disaster relief. Equipment like helicopters and armored vehicles are also vitally important to emergency and disaster response efforts," he continued.
The DOD 1033 program was put into place during the Clinton administration as a way to bolster local law enforcement agencies engaging in the war on drugs. Sessions has made it clear the Department of Justice is focused on combating the current opioid crisis with as many resources as possible and has vowed to untie the hands of law enforcement in their fight against rising violent crime.
"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. These are the types of helmets and gear that stopped a bullet and saved the life of an officer during the Orlando nightclub shooting. This is the type of equipment officers needed when they pursued and ultimately killed terrorists in San Bernardino. Studies have shown this equipment reduces crime rates, reduces the number of assaults against police officers, and reduces the number of complaints against police officers," Sessions said.
"Those restrictions went too far. We will not put superficial concerns above public safety."
President Obama argued in 2015 the "militarization of police" creates distrust between police and the local communities they serve. He used Ferguson, where rioters burned down a number of building and businesses, as an example.
"We've seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like they're an occupying force, as opposed to a force that's part of the community that's protecting them and serving them," Obama said. "We're going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments."
President Trump officially signed the executive order lifting the ban on Monday afternoon.