Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Obama's order restricting military gear for police to have "minimal" effect for Grand Forks area officers

President Barack Obama's recent order to keep certain military gear out of the hands of police officers and sheriff's deputies will hardly affect law enforcement in the Grand Forks area, officials say.

President Barack Obama's recent order to keep certain military gear out of the hands of police officers and sheriff's deputies will hardly affect law enforcement in the Grand Forks area, officials say.

Obama recently announced that the federal government will no longer be allowed to give certain military-style equipment to law enforcement agencies-including tracked armoured vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers and .50-caliber or higher weapons and ammunition-saying the gear has the potential to "send the wrong message" to communities.

Obama made the announcement nine months after public outcry over use of riot gear and armored vehicles while police attempted to subdue protests in Ferguson, Mo.

For years, law enforcement agencies have obtained decommissioned military weapons and equipment through federal grants and programs from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

Under Obama's order, law enforcement agencies will have to turn over any of the items listed as "prohibited."


That means the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office must turn over the two grenade launchers it procured from the Department of Defense's Defense Logistics Agency in 2006.

Sheriff Bob Rost said the grenade launchers were destroyed the same week the executive order was announced.

They won't be sorely missed, he said.

"We never had a need for them," Rost said, adding his deputies had never used the grenade launchers.

Though equipment like grenade launchers can be used to fire non-lethal objects, such as launching tear gas or smoke grenades, a federal task force found that the risk of damaging public trust in law enforcement outweighed any benefit of having the equipment.

"And other devices that do not have similar militaristic connotations are available to launch tear gas," the task force wrote in its findings.

The Grand Forks Police Department does not have any of the "prohibited" equipment, Grand Forks Police Lt. Derik Zimmel said.

In addition to the prohibited gear, Obama also required law enforcement to take extra steps to obtain certain equipment. That list includes aircraft, drones, armored and tactical vehicles such as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs), Humvees, specialized firearms, explosives including flash bangs, battering rams, riot batons, helmets and shields.


Before applying for that equipment, agencies are required to give a "clear and persuasive explanation" for needing the equipment and must seek approval from a city council or other local governing body.

Law enforcement will also have to collect data on the use of that equipment and adopt standards and training relating to community-police relations, civil rights and use of equipment.

Though the Grand Forks Police Department has obtained such equipment from federal programs, Zimmel said, he did not think the new requirements would have much of an impact on the department.

The special operations teams, like the Grand Forks Regional SWAT and Bomb Teams, which would have occasion to use equipment like Humvees or flashbangs, are required to undergo training quarterly, Zimmel said.

"When these things take effect, we'll take a look at our directives and make sure everything is done properly," Zimmel said.

Walsh County Sheriff Ron Jurgens and Polk County Sheriff Barb Erdman said they also do not believe Obama's order will have much impact on their departments.

"If it does affect us, it would be minimal," Jurgens said.

Neither the Walsh County Sheriff's Department nor the Polk County Sheriff's Department have any equipment procured from the federal government that is now listed as prohibited, they said.


Neither department has much of a need for specialized equipment either, the sheriffs said. If ever there is a bomb threat or a terror threat, the departments rely on the Grand Forks Regional SWAT and Bomb Teams.

The departments could feel the effects of the order if they wanted to apply for any equipment with extra restrictions on it.

Jurgens said the extra controls could make it more difficult for cash-strapped departments to obtain needed equipment from the federal government

"It leaves our citizens vulnerable when we don't have that equipment," he said.

Erdman said she was not very familiar with the new requirements for certain equipment, but said she would educate herself on them if a need arose.

"If I had a true need for the equipment, I guess I would have to participate in it," she said.

Obama's order does not bar law enforcement from using non-federal funds to buy any of the prohibited or restricted equipment.

What To Read Next
Get Local