U.S. President Barack Obama puts in place new restrictions on the use of military equipment by police departments, following unrest in U.S. cities over the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers.
CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY, UNITED STATES (MAY 18, 2015) (RESTRICTED POOL) – U.S. President Barack Obama put in place new restrictions on Monday (May 18) on the use of military equipment by police departments, following unrest in U.S. cities over the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers.
“We’ve seen how sometimes military gear can give people the feeling like there’s an occupying force as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting and them serving them, can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message,” Obama said.
Obama banned police use of equipment such as explosive-resistant vehicles with tracked wheels like those seen on army tanks. Also now in place, new provisions requiring justification for the use of certain types of equipment, such as MRAP (mine-resistant ambush protected) vehicles and riot shields.
Obama announced the steps, which are the result of an executive order, during a visit on Monday to Camden, New Jersey, where he pushed efforts to encourage trust-building between police and the communities they serve.
Obama was full of praise for America’s policemen, calling them “good, honest and fair” people who “put their lives on the line every day”.
“So we should do everything in our power to make sure they are safe, and help them do the job the best they can,” he said.
The fatal shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in August was followed by a string of highly publicized fatal encounters between police and black men, including Walter Scott who was shot by an officer while fleeing the scene of a traffic stop in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Last month, violent protests erupted in Baltimore after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died after sustaining spinal injuries while in police custody.
Protesters in Ferguson felt the methods use by police to prevent the demonstrations from turning violent were excessive, and the Justice Department has since launched a review of St. Louis County law enforcement’s response to the unrest.
The turmoil in Ferguson and Baltimore also highlighted divisions between black and white Americans.
In a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the protests in Baltimore, 69 percent of respondents said America has a serious issue with race. Nearly three-quarters said there is more racism in the United States than the country is willing to admit.