Trump's military equipment policy reversal will have little impact on Spokane, say local police

President Donald Trump has reopened the flow of surplus military equipment to local and state police agencies, undoing restrictions put in place by President Obama.

In 2015, Obama issued an order that barred police departments from obtaining grenade launchers, bayonets, weaponized vehicles and aircrafts and large-caliber firearms and ammunition. Leading up to Obama's order were images from Ferguson, Missouri, of police wearing camouflage, sitting atop armored vehicles and holding rifles and grenade launchers.

During a speech to the Fraternal Order of Police earlier this week in Nashville, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asserted that Obama's restrictions went too far, positing that Trump's new policy would "send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence and lawlessness to become the new normal."

"We will not put superficial concerns above public safety," Sessions said, referring to Obama's 2015 concerns that prominent use of military equipment presented local police as an occupying force, rather than protectors of the community. The Inlander wrote an in-depth piece on the subject of increasing police militarization two years ago.

Police in Spokane have benefited from the federal programs that allow them to reuse old military gear, though they say that Trump's new policy will likely have little significance for Spokane.

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office has in the past received vehicles and weapons from the military, including 61 M-16 assault rifles, 11 reflex sights for AR-15 semi-automatic rifles , two all-terrain vehicles, a FLIR (forward looking infrared) device and a Humvee. The Sheriff's Office's two helicopters — 1970s-era Bell OH-58s — also were obtained through the program.

Most recently, the Sheriff's Office has received a heavily armored MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected ) vehicle and night vision goggles, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says.

"We haven't received any weapons from the military in quite a while," Knezovich says, adding that he doesn't believe his agency is currently in need of any military equipment.

Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl says the department has received "very little equipment from this program, as most of the equipment is old or not applicable to urban police work."

Meidl doesn't believe Trump's order will make much of an impact on SPD, though he leaves open the possibility of obtaining some equipment in the future.

"I don't know specifically off-hand any equipment we will request through this program, but if it will keep our officers and community safer, and we do not possess the resources to purchase it from our budget, I am not opposed to exploring the option," he says.

"But I must stress whatever we request will need to be compliant with our urban law enforcement mission, and will need to be of benefit to the community and department."