St. Charles Parish sheriff questions new fed limits on military surplus

Champagne calls executive order ‘ridiculous’

The recent decision by President Barack Obama to end federal transfer of military surplus weapons and items to local law enforcement agencies, and place restrictions on others, has been controversial — and St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne, for one, is counted among outspoken critics of the ruling.

Executive Order 13688 or “Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition” established a list of prohibited items local agencies will not be able to acquire via transfer from federal agencies or through federal funding. These include certain armored vehicles, weapons, camouflaged bulletproof vests and helicopters.

“We’re dealing with form over substance (with this order),” Champagne said. “The president is overreaching here,  micromanaging and, frankly, it’s ridiculous.

“After the riots in Ferguson, which had nothing to do with this equipment … all of a sudden it became bad for law-enforcement agencies to have any kind of military equipment at their disposal.”

A tighter protocol for use of non-banned items was also established.

“All federal equipment acquisition programs must require law enforcement agencies that apply for controlled equipment to provide mandatory information in their application, including a detailed justification with a clear and persuasive explanation of the need for the controlled equipment, the availability of the requested controlled equipment to LEA in its inventory or through other means, certifications that appropriate protocols and training requirements have been adopted, evidence of the civilian governing body’s review and approval or concurrence of the LEA’s acquisition of the requested controlled equipment, and whether the LEA has been or is in violation of civil rights and other statutes, regulations, or programmatic terms,” the official summary of the order reads.

“When you have 60 rules and regulations to adhere to whenever you need to utilize an option, when you have federal overreach into state and local law enforcement where we’re being told how to do our jobs, it makes things incredibly difficult,” Champagne said. “A lot of agencies are giving (the military items) back because they don’t want to have to deal with it.

“I’m not sure if we’re going to do that. I haven’t decided yet. We have to cut through all kinds of red tape even on items we purchased ourselves.”

Champagne cited things like the armored vehicles as major assets when especially dangerous situations arise.

“Bullets will cut through a patrol car,” he said. “We have to be able to send our officers in an armored vehicle when you have an active shooter.”

Worse yet, the sheriff continued, the world is seeing more of these situations arise, not less, and he fears these types of sanctions will hurt police in their efforts to protect their communities.

“The wars of the future are fought on our streets, today,” Champagne said. “We’re fighting people, radicals, who hate our fundamental ideologies, and they bring that fight to the streets of America. There’s not a week that goes by that law enforcement isn’t using that equipment.”

 

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