To the editor: Following riots in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that, by April 2016, requisitioned police stores of weapons previously received as military surplus and provided for closer oversight of federal procurement programs. Recently, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the White House had rescinded that order, giving police departments access to the military equipment.
A recent paper published in the Ameican Economical Journal Provides useful information on the value of the program. The paper, authored by Vincenzo Bove, of the University of Warwick, and Evelina Gavrilove of the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen, indicates that back-office equipment, such as file cabinets, air conditioners and copier machines, is much more effective than tactical gear and vehicles at decreasing crime. No evidence was found that police departments receipt of military weapons cut crime.
Our local communities would benefit to take an interest in these findings. If our communities intend to acquire materials through the federal 1033 military equipment program we should ensure that it is for the right reasons. If the true intent is to reduce crime, police departments should make efforts to obtain the back-office equipment that is shown to be helpful in that aim. If the intent is merely to obtain military vehicles and heavy weaponry to beef up police departments without regard to the impact these items will have, the equipment should not be obtained. Knowing that items such as military vehicles and heavy weaponry have no value in decreasing crime, there should be no desire to obtain them by any police department. Such equipment is costly to operate and maintain and would only serve to encourage an intimidating police state.
Hopefully, our local political leaders will bear these ideas in mind when exploring the possibility of our communities’ involvement in the Federal 1033 military equipment program so that the best decisions can be made.