By Michael Hernandez
President Donald Trump on Monday ended his predecessor's restrictions on controversial deliveries of military surplus equipment to local police forces.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a law enforcement gathering in Nashville, Tennsessee, that Trump's executive order "will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence, and lawlessness to become the new normal".
Former President Barack Obama decided to curtail the 1033 program in the wake of the police response to civil unrest in Ferguson, Missour,i in 2014 that saw law enforcement take to the streets with military-style equipment, including armored personnel carriers.
The presence of such equipment on streets led to widespread criticism within the country and abroad about the militarization of American police forces, prompting Obama's decision to halt deliveries of tracked armored vehicles and tactical equipment including grenade launchers and bayonets to state, city and local police forces.
Requests for wheeled armored vehicles had to be accompanied by a stated need for the vehicle.
"Those restrictions went too far," Sessions said. "We will not put superficial concerns above public safety."
Trump has long promised to end the restrictions that helped him secure the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police during the presidential race.
In his executive order, Trump described the formerly prohibited items as "Life-Saving Equipment and Resources".
The move to rescind Obama's order has prompted criticism from rights groups that worry such equipment will encourage police to act like combatants rather than stewards of public safety.
"Our communities are not the same as armed combatants in a war zone," said Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Justice Department's civil rights division who is now the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
"These guidelines were created after Ferguson to ensure that police departments had a guardian, not warrior, mentality," she said in a statement. "The safeguards were reasonable: police departments don’t need grenade launchers and bayonets to protect our communities; they should have the appropriate training for the equipment they use; and the federal government should have checks and accountability measures for law enforcement’s use of certain military equipment."Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.