President Barack Obama’s order Monday that banned the federal government from transferring certain military equipment to local law enforcement agencies was intended to improve community relations after police in riot gear exacerbated unrest in places like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore.
But conservatives aren’t buying it. Peter Johnson Jr., who serves as Fox News President Roger Ailes’ personal attorney and often functions as the executive’s on-air mouthpiece, reacted by going as far as to accuse Obama of waging a “war on police.”
“This is a major battle in the war on police waged by the White House, in my view,” Johnson said Tuesday morning on “Fox & Friends.” “What we’re saying now, this is the treaty of Versailles. This is the demilitarization of Japan and Germany after post-World War II. So we’re saying the police are in fact warriors. They’re not protectors. They’re not guardians, as the President should be, and they alienate our community.”
Other network personalities and conservative bloggers this week have seized on the order to accuse the President of fostering crime, leaving police unprotected or paving the way for more federal control of local law enforcement.
Here are five of the wildest theories:
The order will encourage crime and unrest going forward
Steve Doocy, one of the co-hosts on the Fox News show “Fox & Friends,” suggested Tuesday that the Obama administration’s attempt to improve community policing will actually lead to more unrest.
“President Obama now placing limits on military equipment, certain kinds of military equipment, for our local police officers in an effort to improve community relations,” Doocey said. “Well, talk about communities — there have been 25 homicides in Baltimore in 28 days and police there recently had to run from rocks being thrown by protesters. So is this a good idea?”
Fox’s Heather Nauert telegraphed the same message, albeit more subtly, earlier on the program when she pointed out that the federal government also plans to “give community organizers — just like those who took part in the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore — $163 million in taxpayer money” to hire more staff.
The order leaves police unprotected
Fox News host Megyn Kelly wondered Monday why the Obama administration would “deprive” police of riot gear that she said proved its usefulness during the unrest in Baltimore.
“Remember in Baltimore where they were throwing concrete, huge slabs of concrete at the heads of the cops and the firefighters as they drove by to try to protect the community,” she said during a panel discussion. “I man, I’d rather be in one of those MRAPs if it were coming at me than exposed in an open vehicle.”
The order does not ban the transfer of either riot gear or MRAPs, however. Local law enforcement agencies can still obtain wheeled armored vehicles — such as Mine‐Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles or Armored Personnel Carriers — and riot batons, helmets and shields provided that they demonstrate a need for that equipment.
The order will lead to the National Guard doing the job of police for them
Former Rep. Allen West’s (R-FL) website wasn’t the only venue where suspicion of the military clashed with Obama’s police equipment order. Bill Stanton, a security consultant and former New York police officer, hinted that the order would lead to increased deployment of the National Guard to handle civil unrest.
“Where did [the police] go too far? In Ferguson, in Baltimore where they burned down the CVS?” he said in a Monday interview on Fox Business Network’s “Cavuto.” “Then what happens when these incidents occur? They call in the National Guard. The last time I checked that is a military organization.”
Doug Wyllie, the editor-in-chief of the law enforcement news hub PoliceOne.com, echoed Stanton’s argument.
“If crowds are allowed to run amok because police don’t have the necessary protective equipment to safely stop a riot, we know who gets the callout: the National Guard — the actual military,” he wrote Monday. “Anyone who fails to see the irony in that is just not paying attention.”
The order is an unconstitutional grab for federal control of police
Cheryl Chumley, a writer for the conspiracy theory website WND, contributed an op-ed to TheBlaze that argued Obama’s order flies in the face of the Constitution.
“Obama has no constitutional business ordering local police agencies around, or making and shaping them into his vision of community patrollers,” she wrote. “Civilian police agencies are local government bodies, funded primarily by local boards of supervisors and city councils, subject to the localities they serve. They don’t serve at the whim or pleasure of the president.”
Chumley argued it would have been appropriate for Obama to turn to Congress to legislate police reform.
“The fact that he’s using the power of his Justice Department to wield massive policy influence in police agencies across the nation is yet another example of his preference for issuing monarch-like decrees over abiding constitutional restraints,” she wrote.
The order is ludicrous because police and soldiers do the same job
In a Monday appearance on Fox Business Network’s “Kennedy,” former NYPD detective Tom Ruskin made a doozy of an argument that police should have access to military-grade equipment because they perform essentially the same function as U.S. troops abroad.
“The police departments are a quasi-military organization. They follow a chain of command,” he said. “You are given orders. You carry out those orders. You are told what you can do as a cop. That is what you do. You know your laws. You know your restrictions. It’s the same as engaging in battle.”
The show’s host, Kennedy Montgomery, pushed back hard against the idea that police should consider themselves as working in a war zone, but Ruskin kept at it.
“The same way we send soldiers into hostile areas to engage the local tribes in negotiations and talking about letting us know if something happens — if ISIS comes into your area, same thing,” he said. “It’s community policing, it’s just on a different level in a different country.”