Sessions Misstated Obama Policy on Police, Military Gear

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Obama administration limited police ability to obtain Kevlar vests and helmets from the U.S. military. Kevlar vests and most helmets were not restricted, however.

The Trump administration made false assertions to justify an executive order expanding police forces’ access to military equipment such as tanks and grenade launchers, ProPublica reports. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last week that President Trump would make defensive gear available to police again by undoing an Obama administration policy. “He is rescinding restrictions from the prior administration that limited your agencies’ ability to get equipment through federal programs, including life-saving gear like Kevlar vests and helmets and first-responder and rescue equipment like what they’re using in Texas right now,” Sessions said.

That is not what the Obama administration’s restrictions did, according to DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Kevlar vests were never subject to any restrictions. Most helmets weren’t, either. Riot helmets (defined as those with shields over the face), Humvees and helicopters that are used in rescue missions were still available to police forces as long as they explained why they needed them and certified that they had protocols and training in place so officers would use them safely. “Kevlar vests were never on any lists. That part is simply lying about what we did,” said Roy Austin, Obama’s aide handling police issues. “He was being untruthful about helmets as well.” A Justice Department spokesman acknowledged that the items Sessions cited were never prohibited by the Obama administration. The spokesman contended that, “There is absolutely nothing misleading about what the Attorney General said.” What the Obama administration prohibited were tanks, weaponized vehicles, .50 caliber guns, grenade launchers, bayonets and digital-pattern camouflage uniforms.