State Law Enforcement Say Lifting Military Equipment Surplus Ban Helps With Tight Budgets

Aug 29, 2017

Homeland Security Special Response Vehicle
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

The Trump administration will lift a ban on the military giving some surplus equipment to police departments, and some members of Michigan law enforcement are welcoming the change.


According to the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the equipment is mostly clothes and items they would buy anyway.  Except now, they don’t have to use money from a budget that isn’t always generous.

“The police and fire and the funding for public safety has been impacted and still impacted by the recession and the effects of the recession,” said Executive Director for the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Robert Stevenson. 

Critics of the practice say it militarizes the police. The issue came to a head in 2015, when police met protesters in Ferguson, Missouri with armored vehicles and riot gear.

Shelli Weisberg is the Political Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.  She said she hopes police departments will only take equipment for everyday use. 

Michigan State Police in particular has been really good about limiting this in the past,” Weisberg said.  “And I hope we can have a conversation with them and, you know, really maybe have a measured response to lifting of the ban.”

While the types of equipment that could be sent to police departments include bayonets and large-caliber weapons, Stevenson said in Michigan they mostly take warm weather clothes and protective gear. 

Stevenson also says departments should only take equipment they need and will use. 

“Because to be honest I think most police chiefs see little need to have bayonets,” he said. “There is some of this equipment that we need to look at ourselves and just make sure that it has a good application.”

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org