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White House may lift ban on police forces getting riot gear, other surplus military-grade equipment

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A Dallas police officer, who did not want to be identified, takes a moment as she guards an intersection in the early morning after a shooting in downtown Dallas, Friday, July 8, 2016. At least two snipers opened fire on police officers during protests in Dallas on Thursday night; some of the officers were killed, police said. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
A Dallas police officer, who did not want to be identified, takes a moment as she guards an intersection in the early morning after a shooting in downtown Dallas, Friday, July 8, 2016. At least two snipers opened fire on police officers during protests in Dallas on Thursday night; some of the officers were killed, police said. (AP Photo/LM Otero)


President Obama is looking to revisit a 2015 ban on police forces getting riot gear, armored vehicles and other military-grade equipment passed down from the US Armed Forces.

Coming on the heels of recent police slayings, two police organization leaders -executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police Jim Pasco and executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations Bill Johnson- say President Barack Obama has agreed to review each item that was banned in 2015, according to Reuters.

If the ban is lifted, it could result in the transfer of items like grenade launchers and armored vehicles from the military to the police.

While the equipment is available on the private market for police purchase, many departments cannot afford their own, thus leaving them vulnerable as many agencies are dependent on the federal government to equip them with such items.

“The White House thought this kind of gear was intimidating to people, but they didn’t know the purpose it serves,” said Pasco, noting a grenade launcher can also launch tear gas for crowd control.

A White House official says the administration regularly reviews transferrable items and set rules so law enforcement can get “the tools that they need to protect themselves and their communities while at the same time providing the level of accountability that should go along with the provision of federal equipment.”

The 2015 executive order came after outcry over the police handling of unrest in cities such as Ferguson, MO, where police were seen using military grade equipment and armor during protests and riots.

Pasco and Johnson said White House chief legal counsel Neil Eggleston has been tasked with reviewing the ban at Obama’s request.

 

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