By Ron Hosko, LE Action President
President Trump’s abrogation of his predecessor’s executive order on the distribution of life-saving surplus military equipment to local law enforcement moves him a step closer to fulfilling his promise to continue standing up for our law enforcement community.
For much of Barack Obama’s second term in the White House, law enforcement, rather than criminals in the streets, were the target. Starting with his ill-informed, “the police acted stupidly” shot at Cambridge, Mass. officers who did their job professionally in an encounter with his pal Henry Gates, Obama’s were a series of missteps that steadily eroded trust.
After the “Hands up, don’t shoot” mythology flowing from the fatal encounter between Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson and his assailant Michael Brown, the former chief executive established his Task Force on 21st Century Policing. What followed was classic big government—lots of great ideas and high expectations for police departments though nothing to implement and sustain them.
But Obama wasn’t finished with all that rogue policing across the country, policing that was destroying cities and trust with their fleets of Department of Defense-supplied armored vehicles, grenade launchers and automatic rifles tipped by bayonets. At least that was the song coming from the White House and backed by a choir of liberal media voices.
The reality was far different.
Law enforcement leaders and those who could see past the liberal media blur recognized the need and the truth. It was on grisly display when two terrorists shot up a pre-Christmas gathering in San Bernardino, California and ended with police armored trucks moving in to prevent further carnage. We saw it again in Colorado Springs, Colorado when a madman opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic and police armored vehicles were used to end the deadly siege. And just six months later, similar armored trucks were used by police to smash a hole into Orlando, Florida's Pulse nightclub to help rescue victims and eliminate the threat posed by another terrorist whose deadly romp took 50 lives.
President Obama won’t be known for letting the facts obscure his goals. He wanted American troops out of Afghanistan and didn’t concern himself with the spreading Taliban influence. He wanted U.S. soldiers out of Iraq and he watched and talked in his self-assured tones while the scourge of ISIS filled the void. In both cases, the kicked can landed in his successor’s lap.
And with policing, he seldom wavered. America’s police, he offered, were inherently biased, certainly racist, and given to excessive use of force. It would be up to him to curtail at least some of it—with Executive Order 13688.
In Washington bureaucrat fashion, before the order came a working group, one that would gather the bits and pieces of information that would loan the cover of legitimacy to the result he sought. His working group, though, betrayed its objective by page six of their report where two footnotes citing the ACLU and another to the Washington Post tell any discriminating reader where the report is headed.
The predicate did offer a ray of hope, “Equipment provided through Federal sources has become a critical component of LEAs’ inventory, especially as fiscal challenges have mounted and other sources of equipment and funding have diminished. LEAs rely on Federally-acquired equipment to conduct a variety of law enforcement operations including hostage rescue, special operations, response to threats of terrorism, and fugitive apprehension. Use of Federally-acquired equipment also enhances the safety of officers who are often called upon to respond to dangerous or violent situations; being improperly equipped in such operations can have life-threatening consequences, both for the law enforcement personnel and the public they are charged with protecting.” All true, but for Obama, perception would rule the day. He quickly signed the EO which had tracked armored vehicles, much like those used in Colorado Springs, San Bernardino and Orlando, hauled away from police and sheriff’s departments that badly needed them.
Following a recent media event with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the AG asked the gathered law enforcement representatives about their most pressing concerns for the new administration. A sheriff and national sheriff’s association executive immediately said, “reversing [EO 13688].” Today, they will be celebrating.
President Trump has done little to conceal his trust and respect for the nation’s law enforcers. He couldn’t get through a campaign stop without celebrating their sacrifice. The step he’s taken to reverse his predecessor’s order will hopefully be one of many acts where he works to rebuild trust in the ability of police leadership to act in the best interest of their officers and the community.
Lifesaving surplus military equipment, much of which could not be afforded by underfunded state, local and tribal agencies is on full display in the emergency response to the unfolding south Texas disaster. Its responsible use should not be curtailed by Washington politics.