Obama should keep doing more to demilitarize local law enforcement

Read Raheem F. Hosseini's coverage of military freebies and Sacramento law-enforcement agencies: His 2012 cover story “Sacramento's Army” (http://tinyurl.com/SactoArmy), and his follow-up from last year, “Sacramento's army—the sequel” (http://tinyurl.com/SactoArmyTwo).

President Barack Obama made an executive order in May that banned the federal government from selling certain surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.

He told reporters about how military equipment changes public perception of police and deputies. “We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama told reporters.

The banned equipment includes grenade launchers, high-caliber guns and bayonets, tank-like armored vehicles (including the ever-controversial mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs, which had been acquired locally by agencies in Davis and Citrus Heights), certain camouflaged uniforms and weaponized aircraft.

As the SN&R has reported in recent years, law enforcement has been the recipient of all sorts of military freebies, including 1,027 assault rifles and eight grenade launchers between 2006 and 2008 by Sacramento County agencies.

Local leaders such as Sheriff Scott Jones shot back at Obama’s order late last month, claiming that Obama is unfairly intervening on “healthy” community policing. “The president knows as much about policing as I know about being president,” he said in a video statement.

We believe Jones is out of line, and that Obama’s order doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t ban private entities from selling this gear, nor does it require local agencies return banned equipment. But it is a step in the right direction at a time when police officers, whose departments have become increasingly militaristic, are facing great scrutiny over racial profiling and use of excessive force. We’ve seen this firsthand during the past year in Ferguson and Baltimore.

We need officers we can trust, not a military patrolling our streets.