Obama Hops on Demilitarize-the-Police Bandwagon

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On Monday, May 18, President Obama announced that he would cut back the transfer of military weapons and equipment to local police. Our statement: Today’s announcement represents among the Obama administration’s first attempts to address police violence and misconduct after over six years in office. While long overdue, it includes at least three welcome & important policies:

(1) limits on the military force structure available to local police, (2) new requirements for approval by local elected officials, ensuring community accountability, and (3) transparency requirements governing over 20 police departments that will publicly report data about the demographic impacts of at least some police activities.

These measures are among the recommendations that the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Defending Dissent Foundation have long proposed. Others in the Justice Department’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing report — like the recommendation for nationwide transparency along the lines adopted by some cities — will take action beyond today’s announcement in order to become real.

Related: Obama Backs Cameras But Won’t Halt Humvees 

Two big questions remain. First, will communities whose outrage forced the administration’s hand remain vocal enough to drive the implementation of today’s welcome rhetoric into policy? Second, can a change in federal policy this late in an administration secure a meaningful change in local police culture before the White House changes hands in less than 22 months? Time will tell, but for now, at least, the administration is finally heeding its own rhetoric.

Related: Cops Fight to Keep War Toys