On Monday May 18th, President Obama visited Camden, New Jersey to announce new reforms in the federal government’s role in the nation’s policing. A large part of the reform plan is aimed at demilitarizing our nation's police departments.
Effective immediately, the administration will no longer supply certain kinds of military equipment to local police forces, such as “tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, ammunition of .50-caliber or higher and some types of camouflage.”
In addition, the administration will phase in restrictions to the other types of military equipment, such as tactical vehicles and riot equipment, in order to establish further accountability surrounding their use.
Here is the President's full speech.
Ferguson Missouri's Police military style management of protests following the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer triggered nationwide cries of demilitarizing police departments in regards to equipment.
Demilitarizing the nations's police is one step toward police and citizen relationship reform. At this juncture both parties harbor huge levels of distrust for one another. The police don't know anything about who they're policing and the citizens don't have any idea who's policing them. Both are interacting toward each other based on media embedded perceptions of each other and that is recipe for disaster.
Community policing is another step that has to become a reality in cities across the nation. Camden New Jersey has become somewhat of a model for effective community policing. At one point Camden had taken on a middle eastern war zone ambiance aided and abetted by cuts to their Police department - thanks to one Chris Christie.
Testifying before the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Camden County Police Chief Scott Thomson nailed the solution.
He said "community policing “starts on the street, with respectful interaction between a police officer and a local resident that need not be related to a criminal matter.”
Chief Scott Thompson gets it and has the results to prove it. Since 2012, when Camden County’s police force reorganized, crime has dropped steeply, with homicides falling by 40 percent.
The move by the Obama Administration to get a grip on war oriented apparatus falling in the hands of police departments will change the "brute force" ambiance a lot of departments take on when interacting with the citizens they're policing.
To be sure if one of the global terrorist groups showed up in one of our cities we would want our police to be well equipped to respond. If drug dealers armed to the teeth were still relevant in our neighborhoods of course we would want our police armed to the teeth as well. Absent incidents of this caliber, tanks, armored vehicles, and riot gear is really not necessary to deal with people with local citizens.