President Obama Cuts Militarized Gear To Local Police Departments
- New York 05/18/2015 by Linda Perry (WBAI)

President Barack Obama speaking on strengthening community policing in Camden, New Jersey, May 18, 2015
President Obama’s Task Force On 21st Century Policing released it’s final report on Monday. It says law enforcement cannot build community trust if it is seen as an occupying force, coming in from outside to impose control on the community.

The report says "law enforcement culture should embrace a guard- ian—rather than a warrior—mindset," this to build trust and legitimacy both within agencies and with the public.

To this point President Obama announced changes to military style equipment going to police departments around the country.

“We’ve seen how militarized gear gives people feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that is part of the community that is protecting them and serving them.”

Local police departments in Ferguson, in Baltimore and other cities used paramilitary weapons on citizens protesting the deaths of unarmed men by police. 

Police dressed in marine-issued camouflage and military grade body armor confronted protesters. They blurred the line between police officer and soldier. 

That’s not the way to police a community says Barack Obama. “So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments.”

Obama spoke in Camden, New Jersey on Monday afternoon, where he said the police department is becoming a model of community policing, with a dramatic drop in crime: violent crime down 24%, murder down 47%, open air drug markets cut by 65%.

“Two years ago the police department was overhauled to implement a new model of community policing. They doubled the size of the force, while keeping it unionized. They cut desk jobs in favor of getting more officers out onto the streets, not just to walk the beat but to actually know the residents, to set up basketball games, to volunteer in schools, to participate in reading programs, to get to know small businesses in the area.  To be a police officer takes a special kind of courage. I talked about this on Friday at a memorial for 131 officers who gave their lives to protect communities like this one. It takes a special kind of courage to run towards danger, to be a person that residents run to when they are most desperate. And when you match courage with compassion, with care, and understanding of the community like we’ve seen here in Camden, some really outstanding things can begin to happen.”

The Final Report from the President’s Task force 21st Century Policing says if police are to carry out their responsibilities there needs to be clear policies which reflect community values. It says community policing should be used as a guiding philosophy with the emphasis on working with neighborhood residents to co-produce public safety. The president said police can't solve all our problems. He said there’s no single solution to poverty and lack of opportunities which plague our communities, but wasted resources need to be redirected.

“We all want safety. We all know how pernicious the drug culture can be in undermining communities, but this massive trend toward incarceration, even of non-violent drug offenders and the costs of that trend are crowding out other critical investments we can make in public safety. If we’re spending a whole lot of money on prisons and we don’t have computers or books or enough teachers or sports or music programs in our schools we are being counterproductive. It’s not a good strategy

Barack Obama speaking in Camden New Jersey. The final report from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing is here. 

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