DENVER (CBS4) – Equipment meant for the battlefield will no longer be given to state and local police departments after President Obama issued an executive order on Monday.
The order bans the federal government from giving things like tracked armored vehicles to local police departments. But some law enforcement departments in Colorado, especially in rural areas, already have some of the equipment.
A CBS4 investigation showed some law enforcement agencies have military weapons like grenade launchers at their disposal. They are weapons they got through a pass-along program from the federal government — a program that the president is now restricting.
In February vandals defaced a memorial to fallen officers during a protest against police in Denver. It’s a crime retired Denver police officer Rob Rathburn says may have been deterred by military grade armored vehicles.
“That’s kind of what those vehicles do,” he said.
Rathburn says police agencies use that type of equipment to protect people, cities and themselves.
“(When) we have buildings burning, you have your officers catching rocks and bottles,” he said.
“In the case of Baltimore, you saw those officers were overrun then you’re going to want to deploy those vehicles to get into that scene,” said Rathburn.
But now President Obama says the government it will no longer fund or provide tracked armored vehicles, grenade launchers, firearms or ammunition over 50 caliber or camouflage uniforms.
“Does it really matter to you if the sheriff that rescues you is wearing a camouflage coat?” Rathburn said.
It’s a move that comes nine months after civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, which prompted the president to start a task force that took a close look at local law enforcements’ use of military grade equipment. It’s action the American Civil Liberty Union agrees with.
“Our communities are not war zones, and they shouldn’t be treated as such,” Denise Maes with Denver ACLU said.
The agency released a statement Monday saying it will help build more trust between police and people to not have military grade equipment on a police force.
“It certainly detracts from what I think is the most effective form of policing, which is community,” Maes said.
The federal government is now exploring ways to recall now-prohibited equipment. In Colorado the Department of Public Safety says they are currently waiting on word if they will have to do so.