Dec 02 2015

Alabama Political Reporter: Obama's Seizure of Personnel Carriers Causes Concern

Tuesday, November 24, US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) and US Representative Mike Rogers (R-Saks) both protested the seizure of two M113 APCs from the Calhoun County Sherriff’s Department. Rep. Rogers said that the decision by the Obama White House, “Could very well cost lives.”

Senator Richard Shelby said, “Time and time again, President Obama abuses the authority of his office by making unilateral decisions through executive fiat. From his attempts to grant executive amnesty to illegal immigrants and his plans to allow Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States, to his decision to take away vehicles from local law enforcement in Calhoun County, it is clear that this president is more interested in scoring political points than ensuring the safety of our citizens.”

Congressman Rogers said in a statement, “This is outrageous. While our brave men and women serving in law enforcement are putting their lives on the line, President Obama is confiscating armored vehicles from Alabama officers because they look mean.”

Sen. Shelby said, “We live in an increasingly dangerous and uncertain world, and we cannot allow President Obama to prioritize protecting those trying to do us harm over those trying to protect us. I will continue to fight against this flawed, irresponsible executive action that expands Washington’s influence in our communities and weakens local law enforcement’s ability to protect us.”

Rep. Rogers said, “President Obama’s mandate is not only a prime example of the executive overreach we see too often from the White House, but could very well cost lives. Law enforcement should have the tools to protect lives and keep our communities safe from violent crime and potential terrorist acts. I am committed to fighting against this dangerous move, as the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement across the country should have the full resources they need to keep our communities safe.”

Senator Shelby wrote to President Obama, “I was extremely disturbed to learn that the Defense Logistics Agency is removing two unarmed, tracked armored vehicles from the Calhoun County Sheriff’s office in Alabama. These military surplus vehicles, obtained through the Section 1033 program, have been valuable to local law enforcement in Calhoun County. For example, one of the vehicles has been used to search a wooded area for a man suspected of shooting and killing a local police officer. Another one has been used to assist the community during ice storms. While some may argue that the use of military surplus equipment by law enforcement ‘militarizes’ our law enforcement agencies in ways contrary to civil rights and liberties, I strongly disagree with the premise that local governments do not strive to support and be sensitive to their communities. In addition, where misuse of such equipment does occur, civil and criminal remedies exist to properly address any agency that takes advantage of this system.”

Sen. Shelby wrote, “During this time of increased uncertainty at home and abroad, the American people are looking to your Administration and the federal government to keep them safe. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear that you are more interested in providing favors for political and ideological friends. Citizens across Alabama and America wonder why your Administration is attacking local law enforcement while criminals and terrorists are taking advantage of a system in which politically correct policies are advanced by lawyers and activists who profit by accusing police and soldiers of abuses. Let me be clear, while some isolated incidents of police misconduct do occur, your executive action undermines the men and women in uniform and the safety of American citizens.

It comes as no surprise to those of us in Alabama that you have aligned your policies with those who would have us believe that the biggest problem in communities is the police, and your executive order regarding surplus military equipment is one case in point. Communities in Alabama and across the country depend on the Section 1033 program to obtain equipment that they could not otherwise afford. Your new prohibitions on types of equipment – like unarmed, tracked armored vehicles, .50 caliber weapons, and others – suggest that you believe that you know better than leaders of our communities what tools they need to help keep their citizens safe. After the unprecedented overreach of your executive actions on issues such as immigration and the environment, Americans are sick and tired of liberal elites substituting their so-called wisdom for local efforts to meet the needs of our families and communities.”

Sen. Shelby concluded, “In the aftermath of the attack in Paris and surge of terrorist violence across the world, I ask that you revisit this misguided and dangerous policy on surplus military equipment. Our citizens need their national leaders to place the safety of our communities and those who protect them above criminals, terrorists, and politics. Congress will surely review and respond to these misguided policies in 2016.”

On Tuesday, November 17, US Rep. Rogers also sent a letter to President Obama protesting the decision. Rogers wrote, “Your action will do nothing but make our law enforcement officials more vulnerable during the performance of their duties at a time when violent crime and terrorism present a clear threat to public safety….Less than a week after the horrific attacks on civilians in Paris, it seems more urgent than ever to ensure our law enforcement have the best equipment we can provide to counter any attack. It is just baffling to me that the president would weaken the possible security and safety of our local citizens.”

The M113 tracked vehicle was donated to the agency through the federal 1033 program that gives surplus military equipment and vehicles to law enforcement agencies. President Obama amended the 1033 program after some 1033 gear and equipment was used on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri to attempt to quell riots following the shooting death of local resident Michael Brown by a Ferguson Police Officer (the officer was later exonerated of any wrongdoing by a grand jury).

Congressman Mike Rogers has represented Alabama’s Third Congressional District since 2002. Senator Shelby was first elected to the Senate in 1986 after serving the people of Alabama in both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate.