Oh well! The illusion of actual change was nice while it lasted, right?
WASHINGTON — In the end, the Obama administration believes cops need their armored personnel carriers.
The final chapter of the post-Ferguson debate about federal programs that put combat military hardware in the hands of local law enforcement likely came Tuesday, when Attorney General Eric Holder told a lunch crowd at the National Press Club that military hardware is a necessary part of the police force, especially in the big cities.
“If you’re in New York City and you have to deal with a terrorist incident, I think that some of the military equipment that has been made available to state and local authorities, in fact, can be useful,” he said. “Now, again, it depends on the kind of equipment. Abrams tanks I don’t think should be shared with our state and local counterparts. It’s hard for me to imagine a situation in which that would be useful. But armored carriers and things of that nature I think can be useful if deployed in appropriate ways.”
Holder said pretty clearly what Obama administration officials have been more careful about in public statements for months now: The White House is not embracing legislative efforts launched by libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats to end so-called “police militarization” programs outright. Instead the administration will push a series of smaller changes to the programs aimed at changing the way local police are given surplus combat hardware from the Pentagon or helped to purchase it by federal grant programs run out of the Department of Homeland Security.
Militarization will still be a main focus of the Obama administration’s post-Ferguson policing efforts, but the changes proposed will likely fall far short of the Commander-In-Chief-ordered end to the Pentagon program anti-militarization advocates hoped for last August. The administration plan shaping up as the president’s 21st Century Policing Task Force deliberates is for strict new training and data collection requirements for police who use military equipment.