Tags: Baltimore Riots | Barack Obama | Exclusive Interviews | Newsmax TV | The Hard Line | John Whitehead | police

Lawyer: Obama Right to Stop Flow of Military Gear to Police

By    |   Monday, 18 May 2015 09:45 PM

One supporter of President Barack Obama's decision to abolish the federal government's practice of providing old military equipment to law enforcement agencies tells Newsmax TV that the move is a "step in the right direction," adding that overly aggressive police tactics are rooted in their training.

During an appearance on "The Hard Line" with Ed Berliner on Monday, constitutional lawyer John Whitehead said stopping the practice would not end police shootings involving unarmed suspects but would certainly help.

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"Many [departments] have already been federalized, but limiting some of the weapons, as I show in my book, 'Battlefield America,' when you put camouflaged outfits on, black garb outfits, all the weapons, it changes the mentality of the psychology of police," Whitehead said.

"They act differently when they see an American citizen. If you go back just 20 or 30 years ago, you didn't see any of that. We didn't see all the unarmed shootings and all the things we're seeing today.

"This is a step in the right direction, but it's not going to cure the problem unless . . . you cure the training of the police, how are they trained in the academies."

Former Atlanta police officer Marc Harrold, a lawyer and author of "Observations of White Noise: An 'Acid Test' for the First Amendment," said patrol officers don't necessarily need heavy gear. He said members of SWAT teams, however, need access to specialized gear such as high-caliber weapons and tactical vests.

"We need to get away from the more military look of police, the vest on the outside, sort of the Ninja turtle look that you see, where they're just armed to bear for their more routine duties," Harrold said.

"In no way would I say that the specialized units of the SWAT teams don't need access to this equipment, but we blurred the lines, and a lot of this has to do with the drug war."

Both Whitehead and Harrold agreed that police officers need to return to their roots of walking the streets, shaking hands with members of the community, and keeping the peace.

"They need access to those weapons, but that needs to be the exception and not the rule," Harrold said. "The everyday police officer needs to be more of a peacekeeper and to look to work with the community."

Added Whitehead, "I worked with cops across the border, and they are concerned about the militarized police. They're saying, let's just go back to being the local guy on the block, let's go up and shake the hands of a citizen, let's not shoot a guy running away, an unarmed citizen in the back four times. We just don't do that."

Harrold also said that in the case of a riot, he has "no problem" with patrol officers having access to specialized equipment to deal with the threat.

There have been several high-profile cases in recent months that resulted in police-related deaths of African Americans, including the Freddie Gray case in Baltimore. Six officers were charged in Gray's death, which happened when he was riding in the back of a police van after being arrested on April 19.

Riots and protests erupted in several U.S. cities as a result of the Gray case and others.

President Obama said last month during a White House press conference that there have been too many troubling interactions between police officers and black Americans.

"We have seen too many instances of what appears to be police officers interacting with individuals, primarily African-American, often poor, in ways that raise troubling questions. It comes up, it seems like, once a week now," Obama said.

Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik said Monday that police departments should be able to have old military equipment in the post-9/11 world.

"We live in a very different time than we did" after 9/11, Kerik told Newsmax TV. "New York City has had 14 different thwarted attacks over the last 13 or 14 years.

"We've had more than 60 attempted attacks and assaults related to radical Islam in this country over the last 13 or 14 years, and it's only going to get worse, so our police departments, they have to be prepared for those threats."

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One supporter of President Barack Obama's decision to abolish the federal government's practice of providing old military equipment to law enforcement agencies tells Newsmax TV that the move is a "step in the right direction."
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Monday, 18 May 2015 09:45 PM
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