Obama Sets New Limits on Police Use of Military Equipment

CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY (Reuters) -
President Barack Obama at the Real-Time Tactical Operational Intelligence Center with Camden County Police Chief J. Scott Thomson on Monday, May 18, 2015.  (Chris LaChall/Camden Courier-Post via AP, Pool)
President Barack Obama at the Real-Time Tactical Operational Intelligence Center with Camden County Police Chief J. Scott Thomson on Monday, May 18, 2015. (Chris LaChall/Camden Courier-Post via AP, Pool)

President Obama on Monday banned police departments from using certain military hardware and restricted the use of riot shields and other equipment, following unrest in U.S. cities over the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers.

Obama announced the steps, which are the result of an executive order, during a visit to Camden, New Jersey, where he pushed efforts to encourage trust-building between police and the communities they serve.

“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people the feeling like there’s an occupied force, as opposed to a force that is part of that community it is protecting and serving,” Obama said in a speech at a community center in Camden, a city plagued by high rates of poverty and crime.

Police departments across the country were able to acquire U.S. military equipment after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

In the aftermath of the Baltimore riots, Obama has been speaking out more about race, including in a speech in the Bronx on increasing opportunity for young minority men and during a panel discussion on poverty in Washington.

Obama’s ban, which effectively prevents the U.S. military from providing certain equipment to local police, means that explosive-resistant vehicles with tracked wheels like those seen on army tanks and other similar hardware will no longer be allowed to be used by police, the White House said in a report issued hours before his speech in Camden.

For other types of equipment, such as MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected) vehicles and riot shields, departments will have to provide added justification for their use.