This Is Not the Time to Demilitarize Police Departments, President Told

One week before the San Bernardino massacre, Pat Lynch, the president of the NYPD Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, warned that when terrorists hit the “soft spots” in America, they would come in with military weapons that would vastly outgun the local police.

Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were eventually shot to death by police. But they were armed with military-style assault rifles and had a small arsenal in their suburban home that included more guns, at least 12 pipe bombs, and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Police said Farook and Malik fired at least 65 shots in their attack, and they exchanged gunfire with police in the wild battle on a suburban street that eventually ended with their deaths.

“Countless lives could be saved by equipping patrol officers with the appropriate weapons and giving them the training needed to engage terrorists immediately instead of waiting for specialized units to respond,” Lynch told the New York Post.

He wants every NYPD patrol car to be set up as a “mini counter-terrorism unit.”

Of course, setting local police departments up with the weapons Lynch said are needed to battle highly trained and equipped terrorists is nearly impossible thanks to President Obama’s order to demilitarize police departments across the United States.

The Defense Department, since 1997, had been able to donate excess military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.

But that ended when Obama issued Executive Order 13688 in January following the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Mo. It stops police agencies from getting surplus tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, and large-caliber weapons and ammunition from the federal government.

“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said while explaining the executive order in May.

“It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message,” Obama added. “So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments.”

Because of his order, those local police departments now face limits on getting explosives, riot equipment, and wheeled armored or tactical vehicles.

While it is possible to obtain the guns, tanks, and other firepower police want, it can’t be done without applying to Washington for the gear and making a convincing argument that justifies the request.

Ed Mullins, the president of the NYPD’s Sergeants Benevolent Association, joined Lynch in calling for military-style equipment and training for New York police officers.

“Sadly, the rank-and-file patrol members of the NYPD will be amongst the first to respond and are not equipped with assault rifles or adequate ballistic protection,” said Mullins. “This is reminiscent of the days of sending canaries into coal mines.”

Like Lynch, Mullins issued his statement following the ISIS attacks in Paris. Now, following the San Bernardino massacre, more of their counterparts in the U.S. are lending their voices to the need for better-equipped and trained local police officers.

Not only are they facing new bureaucratic obstacles in the way of getting new equipment, but also police departments have been ordered to start returning whatever donated surplus military equipment they had in stock.

“It really upsets me. We have a great asset. We have not abused it, and in just a blanket order we can no longer have it,” Macomb County, Mich., Sheriff Anthony Wickersham told the Detroit Free Press after giving back the keys to a tracked armored vehicle because of Obama’s order.

“Look what’s happening around the country — mass shootings, barricaded gunman. An armored vehicle gives law enforcement the upper hand.”

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel delivered his annual State of the County address as live coverage of the San Bernardino attack was being broadcast on every TV station in the Detroit area on Dec. 2.

Hackel said if Obama really wanted to make police officers safer, “first thing tomorrow morning (he should) rescind that order.”

“We have to be as prepared if not more prepared to meet these kinds of situations,” said Capt. Will Akin of the Clay County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department. “The equipment we are allowed to have from the military puts us in a better position.”

It isn’t just law enforcement officials who are outraged by being forced to return the military equipment they feel is needed to fight ISIS terrorists.

“These things are useful tools and the president taking them away will put more officers in jeopardy and at risk of harm or even death,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) told

“I don’t know how he can sleep at night knowing his actions will have those repercussions.”