With a new executive order, President Obama created a “working group” including the attorney general and the secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and Treasury, to review the ongoing militarization of civilian police forces across the US.
The group will aim to standardize the Pentagon’s 1033 program, through which it gives surplus military gear to police departments, nominally for the “war on drugs.”
The use of military equipment against civilians in public protests, as in Ferguson, Missouri last year, has drawn new attention to the program, and the review will be carried out with an eye toward deciding which equipment is appropriate to give police, and what training they need on civil liberties if they’re going to have such weaponry.
MRAPs and another armored vehicles have become an increasingly common site when police decide to go out “in force” against public dissent, and some Congressmen have been trying to get legislation introduced to keep armored vehicles and high-caliber rifles, along with grenade launchers, out of the hands of police, since these were clearly never intended to be “crowd control” device as they are being deployed.
As with other government programs, 1033 has considerable momentum behind it, and a lot of police departments are keen to be given military hand-me-downs, even if they are of no conceivable legal utility in ordinary policing, and will likely fight any serious attempts to reform the program.