President Donald Trump is reversing an Obama-era ban on certain military surplus items for law enforcement through what’s referred to as the 1033 program. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the decision at a speech in Nashville, Tenn., Monday.
After the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama announced the ban, which prevented law enforcement from using tank-style vehicles, high-caliber weapons, grenade launchers and other military surplus equipment.
At the time, President Obama said when police use that type of equipment, it could intimidate people. As a result, the Polk County Sheriff's Office had to give up a tank it used in standoffs and rescue operations.
“He took that equipment away, and he lessened the safety and security for the people,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.
In his decision to reverse the ban, President Trump sites two academic articles from the University of Tennessee and the American Economic Association. They found giving police military equipment actually helped reduce crime.
“What President Trump did was just reverse a very bad decision by Barack Obama,” Judd said.
The Lakeland Police Department, on the other hand, said the ban didn't really change much for them, and they actually might've benefitted from it. They did have to get rid of a 1960s tank-style vehicle, but they replaced it with a much newer armored vehicle.
“Doesn't change a whole lot for us,” Lt. Eric Harper of the Lakeland Police Department said. “Pretty much status quo.”
Lt. Eric Harper explained the vehicle they have right now can handle most rescue operations, and they've barely had to use it. However, it’s nice to have the option to acquire military surplus equipment if they need it, he said.
Lakeland Police don't have plans to pick up any previously-banned gear right now, but Sheriff Judd says he wants his agency's equipment back.
“When they took it from us, they drove it off and parked it in some lot someplace on a federal compound,” he said. “I'm ready for them to drive it back to us now.”
The ACLU of Florida disagrees with the reversal of this ban.
“It defies logic to arm the police with weapons of war—grenade launchers, high-caliber assault weapons, and more—but that’s precisely what President Trump and Attorney General Sessions have decided to do,” the organization said in a statement.
While some question the need for military grade items in local police departments, a Kevlar helmet an officer wore while responding to the Pulse nightclub shooting saved his life. He was shot in the head, but the helmet protected him.
In the wake of that, other agencies, like the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, ordered similar helmets for their deputies. They could get items like that for much less through the 1033 program.
© 2017 WTSP-TV