President Trump recently reversed restrictions on transfers of military hardware to the police put in place by President Obama. Obama’s order banned the sale of tracked tanks, weaponized aircraft, grenade launchers, bayonets, and camouflage uniforms to police, and limited the sale of military aircraft, unmanned drones, tactical vehicles, pyrotechnics, and more. Obama was reacting to concerns about Ferguson and a series of incidents of police violence.
Police militarization isn’t new. It’s trend that gone on for decades. SWAT teams have used military tactics since 1964, and police have used submachine guns and armored vehicles since the 1920s. Peter Kraska, who has spent his career studying police and criminal justice militarization, gives us a brief history of police militarization.