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Obama announces new police standards, bans military equipment for local police

By Andrew V. Pestano and Danielle Haynes
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Obama announces new police standards, bans military equipment for local police
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Camden, New Jersey on May 18, 2015. The President spoke on efforts of the Camden County Police Department to build trust between their Department and the community. Camden was recently designated as a “Promise Zone,” which leverages federal grants to increase economic opportunity, reduce crime and improve public health, among other priorities identified by the community. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama announced federal standards to improve trust between police and communities and a ban on some types of military equipment for local police agencies.

Obama spoke on the measures Monday in Camden, N.J., a city that has struggled with one of the country's highest violent crime rates.

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A blueprint for improved community policing was announced that will help cities and towns "develop policing strategies that work best for building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve while enhancing public safety," a statement released by the White House said.

Obama pointed to work Camden has done to grow trust between the city's residents and its police force, and a subsequent drop in violent crime, murder and open air drug markets.

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"To be a police officer takes a certain kind of courage," Obama said. "It takes a special kind of courage to run towards danger, to be a person that residents turn to when they're most desperate.

"When you match courage with compassion with care and understanding of the community like we've seen here in Camden, some really outstanding things can happen," he said.

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The Department of Justice will begin taking applications for grants "designed to advance the practice of community policing in law enforcement agencies."

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The White House will attempt to create improved methods of using data and technology "in ways that build community trust and reduce unnecessary uses of force."

The Department of Justice recently announced a new program that will help local law enforcement agencies implement the use of body-worn cameras on officers, which will be further supported by the White House.

Tools cities can utilize will be presented as part of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing program that can be used to "build and maintain the all-important trust between the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every day, and the communities they have sworn to serve and protect."

Meanwhile, the White House announced a list of items that are banned from being acquired by local police under select federal programs.

The list includes tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, and large-caliber firearms. Under more rigorous control, law enforcement agencies will still be able to acquire armored vehicles, tactical vehicles, riot gear, and specialized firearms and ammunition.

"We've seen how militarized gear sometimes gives people a feeling like they are an occupying force as opposed to a part of the community there to protect them," Obama said during his speech in Camden "Some equipment made for the battlefield is not appropriate for local police departments."

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