Jul 26 2016

AL.com: Shelby, Calhoun County sheriff call on Obama to lift ban on militarized police gear

Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby and Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson called on the Obama Administration this week to reverse a decision last year banning the use of military surplus gear in law enforcement.

In a joint statement, Shelby and Amerson called on President Obama to rescind "his dangerous restrictions on the ability of local police departments to have the tools they need to keep our communities safe."

Multiple news agencies last week reported that the Obama Administration is reconsidering a ban imposed last year on police use of such equipment following attacks on police in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, La.

Amerson has been outspoken on the issue since his department had to return two tracked, armored vehicles acquired in 2004 through the federal 1033 program, which transferred excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies at no cost - only shipping and handling fees.

One was a command and control vehicle which could also function as an armored ambulance, while the other had a slightly smaller body.

The vehicles were used in searches in wooded areas for armed suspects, during ice storms and during a search for victims of a plane crash. 

The change in policy last year came following public criticism of the use of military equipment during police responses to unrest in Ferguson, Mo. and Baltimore, Md.

Shelby became involved after Amerson's department was the first in the state to have to return the equipment.

In the statement, Amerson cited examples of how armored vehicles and ballistic helmets were used in the Orlando Pulse Club shooting and the Baton Rouge police shootings to end standoffs and protect officers.

"We are subject to the rule of law and held accountable for our actions both civilly and criminally as we should be," Amerson said. "Simply stated this equipment saves lives of both law enforcement and civilians.  We just ask that these resources paid for by the American taxpayers be made available to us again."   

Shelby said he would continue to push for a change in policy.

"The senseless attacks on our law enforcement coupled with the threat of terrorism here at home underscores the need for our police to have the support and tools they need to keep us safe," Shelby said. "The rule of law and the security of our citizens should be a top priority, yet the Obama Administration's misguided restrictions on the Section 1033 program only make it more difficult for those who wear blue. While it is a step in the right direction that our law enforcement is finally getting attention from the White House on their needs, I am concerned that their pleas could fall on deaf ears."