September 9, 2017

Editorial: Policing the use of military gear

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Wikimedia Commons / Oregon Department of Transportation

President Trump rolling back Obama-era laws regarding police equipment is a step in the wrong direction.

Trump’s willingness to talk or act first, and think later — if ever — means we citizens have to be on guard against erosions of the values we cherish.

Police armed to the teeth and ready to show you who’s boss — that’s one side of policing.

It’s a side President Trump clearly favors. He recently signed an executive order allowing police departments wider access to surplus military equipment, including bayonets and armored vehicles, undoing restrictions ordered by President Obama in 2015 after a series of events in Ferguson, Missouri, the previous summer, spurred by the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer.

Trump has offered fiery law-and-order rhetoric that undermines fundamental boundaries and practices of our system, such as the legal assumption of innocence and professional comportment when in uniform.

In July, for instance, speaking on Long Island, New York, he told law enforcement officials, “You can take the hand away, OK?” instead of protecting the heads of arrestees — “thugs” — as they are placed in the back of a squad car. (Attorney General Jeff Sessions later claimed the president’s controversial comments were “done in jest.”)

Thankfully his remarks that day, suggesting some level of police brutality is acceptable, were met with consternation and pushback from cooler heads and people who actually practice local law enforcement.

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