After a recent report found that the use of military-grade resources could undermine the public's trust in their local police, The Associated Press reports that the U.S. government will no longer be able to sell such weapons to police departments.
Word of this action came right before the release of the final 116 page report by President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which was formed to "strengthen community policing and trust among law enforcement officers and the communities they serve—especially in light of recent events around the country that have underscored the need for and importance of lasting collaborative relationships between local police and the public."
Last August, President Obama ordereda review of the programs that provide military equipment to police departments, saying, "there is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don't want those lines blurred."
This new recommendation means that certain equipment — like armored vehicles that run on tracks instead of wheels, camouflage uniforms, grenade launchers, weaponized vehicles and aircrafts, bayonets and high-powered firearms — that many police departments had access to during the protests in Ferguson and Baltimore, will no longer be funded or provided by government.
Also, starting later in the year, police departments will need approval from their local governments and a "persuasive explanation" of why they need that level of equipment in order to get it. The AP also reports that the government is looking for ways to recall military-grade items that have already been distributed to departments.
The issue of police militarization has been contentious following the protests of the deaths of 18-year-old Mike Brown in Ferguson and 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Images of police in riot gear, driving armored vehicles flooded social media feeds, lead many Americans to criticize the action of local police forces.
According to The 21st Century Police Task Force's report, “the substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items, which are seen as militaristic in nature, could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement."
The report goes on to recommend new protocol for police that focuses on making fundamental changes to the culture of law enforcement that will start to rebuild that trust.
The report also says that, "Law enforcement culture should embrace a guardian — rather than a warrior — mindset to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public."
The AP reports that the government is giving $163 million in grants to encourage departments to adopt the recommendations.
"We are without a doubt sitting at a defining moment for American policing," Ron Davis, Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the Justice Department, told the AP. "We have a unique opportunity to redefine policing in our democracy, to ensure that public safety becomes more than the absence of crime, that it must also include the presence of justice."