Police Considering Impact of Obama’s Demilitarizing Order

After President Obama's announcement that an executive order will limit the military equipment police departments can obtain from the government, local police departments already using the equipment are wondering what impact it will have on them.

In Maine, Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce said the order will have little to no effect in his department, which has recently received a military vehicle through the controversial Pentagon program. The type of vehicle they have is called the MRAP, or mine resistant ambush protected vehicle. MRAPs are not banned under the executive order, but it does mandate departments provide the government with additional justification for using them.

Among the banned items are tanks with tracks, bayonets, and aircraft outfitted with weapons -- uncommon, impractical equipment for police departments, according to Sheriff Joyce.

"The items they're prohibiting, I wouldn't be interested in anyway," said Joyce.

In Maine, every county has taken part in the military equipment transfer program, including three university police departments. It amounts to more than $11 million worth of military equipment.

"When we put police in tanks, we put them in a combat situation, and that's not what police are supposed to do," said Alison Beyea, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maine.

The ACLU is calling Obama's order an important first step in reversing the trend of demilitarizing police. Beyea said it sends a message about policing tactics, and improves accountability and transparency.

"We look forward to increased oversight of this program," said Beyea, adding that the ACLU will continue to advocate for further reforms.

Sheriff Joyce said he understands why the items on the prohibited list can be considered inappropriate for police use, but said vehicles like the MRAP are necessary.

"We do have bad things that occur occasionally, and we do have times where we need a vehicle like this," said Joyce.  

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