Compared to the other big news of our era, the story didn’t get much attention – just a short article inside the A section of this newspaper and mostly minor treatment by other media outlets across the country.
But the Trump administration’s decision to reopen a pipeline that funnels war-fighting weapons including tanks, grenade launchers and machine guns to U.S. police departments deserves closer scrutiny.
A week before Labor Day, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in a speech to the Fraternal Order of Police that he was canceling former President Obama’s ban on the distribution of high-powered weaponry to local police departments, saying Obama “went too far.” Sessions said the Trump administration would resurrect the 1033 program that has flooded U.S. law enforcement agencies – including Albuquerque’s – with billions of dollars of fearsome gear from war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sessions’ decision sparked criticism from civil rights and police watchdog groups, who contend the weaponry is meant for the battlefield, not U.S. cities and towns. Critics have long argued the heavy weaponry fuels an “us-against-them” mentality among the police and the citizens they serve, especially in minority communities.