Donald Trump moves to militarise police force

BRENTWOOD, NY - JULY 28:  President Donald Trump speaks at Suffolk Community College on July 28, 2017 in Brentwood, New York. Trump, speaking close to where the violent street gang MS-13 has committed a number of murders, urged Congress to dedicate more funding to border enforcement and faster deportations. Trump spoke to an audience that included to law enforcement officers and the family members of crime victims.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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President Donald Trump has signed an executive order which will provide local police departments with military-grade equipment.

The move will allow local police forces to take and use armoured vehicles, high-calibre weapons and other kinds of heavy equipment that had been used in the military, USA Today reports.

This reverses a ban enacted by former US President Barack Obama in May 2015 following unrest over the deaths of black men at the hands of police officers.

At the time, Mr Obama argued that military gear deepened a divide between law enforcement and a cautious community.

"We've seen how militarised gear can sometimes give people the feeling like there's an occupied force, as opposed to a force that is part of that community it is protecting and serving," he said.

The order did still allow for the limited use of other gear - aircraft, wheeled tactical vehicles, mobile command units, battering rams and riot gear - on the condition that the equipment was approved by the federal government.

On Monday (local time), Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scheduled to address the country's largest police union, and he may outline the programme changes there.

The police union and some other law enforcement groups called for a reversal of the ban, claiming that access to surplus military equipment is necessary to better respond to local unrest, especially in poorer communities.

However, critics argue that this equipment undermines civilian trust, leading to heightened suspicion of police.

The surplus sharing agreement was created almost 30 years ago as part of the National Defence Authorisation Act, and originally intended to assist local law enforcement in drug investigations.

In 1997, the program was expanded to include all local police operations, including counter-terrorism.