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Civil Rights Concerns Exacerbated After Local Police Provided With Military-Grade Weapons

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On August 28, President Trump signed an order mandating that the U.S. military provide access to grenade launchers, high-caliber weapons, and other military gear to local police departments, igniting concerns from civil rights groups when it comes to police officers violating the public’s constitutional rights.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has also been steadily increasing tough-on-crime policies and reshaping the way the Justice Department addresses civil rights, making advocates extremely nervous. Many are concerned that this administration is taking too many steps to militarize the local police, which will only encourage and escalate violent confrontations between police and the public.

History of Surplus Equipment Program

Police should arguably be trained in effective ways to serve and protect the public, but not be provided local police with military-grade weapons. The program allowing police to receive surplus equipment was originally authorized in 1990, but was sharply curtailed by the last administration in 2015 after several instances of abusive, police brutality; specifically, after police inappropriately responded in riot gear and deployed dogs, armored vehicles, assault rifles, and tear gas during protests in Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown. President Obama’s order specifically prohibited the government from providing tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, grenade launchers, bayonets, and firearms/ammunition .50-caliber or more to police.

Administration Striking At Civil Rights

Conversely, Trump’s order will effectively allow local agencies to set their own rules when it comes to using this equipment.

However, some localities have already taken steps to limit what police can and cannot do when it comes to military-grade weapons like these, and these restrictions will remain in place in spite of the order.

Sessions has also announced that he intends to pull back on court-enforced plans to resolve issues related to pervasive civil rights violations. He has already revived a form of asset forfeiture which allows local police to use federal assistance in seizing property and cash associated with those accused of crimes (even if they are never charged or convicted of the crime). In response, one Appeals Court already struck down previous rulings allowing the government to seize untainted property (i.e. property that is not connected to the alleged crime) pre-trial; specifically rejecting the government’s argument that interfering with a defendant’s property under the “substitute property” clause does not harm their Sixth Amendment rights.

Civil Rights Attorneys Serving Florida and Massachusetts

As a Florida citizen, you are guaranteed certain constitutional rights. When these rights are violated, speaking with an experienced civil rights and criminal defense attorney is in your best interest.

At the Baez Law Firm, we work tirelessly to ensure that your rights are and that you are compensated for any harm you experience. Contact our Florida and Massachusetts civil rights lawyers today to find out how we can help.

Resources:

atlantablackstar.com/2017/08/29/trump-gives-local-police-access-militarized-weapons-civil-rights-groups-prepare-worst/

billmoyers.com/story/jeff-sessions-bringing-back-civil-forfeiture-bang/

techdirt.com/articles/20170823/07491438067/appeals-court-says-govt-cant-seize-untainted-assets-ahead-trial.shtml

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