The Trump administration has said it plans on restoring a program to provide federal, state and local law enforcement agencies with equipment once used by the military; a program once derided by President Barack Obama as presenting the police as an “occupying force.”

Officially curtailed in 2015, the Obama justice department had said the program contributes to a ‘militarization’ of police, saying that armored vehicles, riot shields, helmets, and certain high-caliber weapons were unnecessary for local law enforcement to do their jobs.

Since then, American law enforcement agencies have insisted the equipment, like armored vehicles and night vision devices, helps their officers perform an increasingly dangerous mission, often against heavily armed and violent criminals and terrorists. Without the funding assistance granted by this federal program, already cash-strapped local agencies would have no means to secure such equipment, leaving their officers to train and prepare for active shooter and terrorist attacks with whatever cheap equipment their jurisdiction will let them acquire.

Called the 1033 Program, it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 23, 1996. The most commonly requested items are ammunition, cold weather clothing, sand bags, and medical supplies. Since its inception, the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) has provided more than $6 billion to law enforcement agencies under the 1033 Program.

According to the LESO’s official website inside the Defense Logistics Agency, “Requisitions cover the gamut of items used by America’s military — clothing and office supplies, tools and rescue equipment, vehicles, rifles and others small arms. Of all the excess equipment provided through the program, only five percent are weapons and less than one percent are tactical vehicles.”

To local departments, the decision is simple. The equipment has already been paid for by the tax payers and federal government, and if unused will simply be destroyed. The military is also not serving as some of sort of supply broker, advising and assisting local departments on which tactical equipment they need. The program depends on how much unused equipment is on hand within the Department of Defense, and how much is requested by local agencies.

And while high-profile items like grenade launchers and armored vehicles have brought increased scrutiny on the program, departments are also acquiring lifesaving equipment like tourniquets and other medical devices.

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The Trump administration has said the equipment is defensive in nature, citing the military-style helmet worn by an officer which saved his life while responding to the terrorist attack in Orlando last summer.

Trump administration to reinstate federal program to provide surplus military equipment to police
Helmet worn by Orlando police officer while responding to a terrorist attack, showing where a rifle round was deflected, saving the officer’s life

Image courtesy of Orlando Police
Featured Image courtesy of Defense Logistics Agency, via Wikipedia