MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott said the Vermont State Police will not be seeking any armored vehicles or other heavy-duty equipment from the U.S. military after President Donald Trump eased restrictions on police departments earlier this week.
The Republican president signed an executive order Monday to fully reinstate a program that allows police departments to obtain surplus military gear from the Pentagon. The so-called 1033 Program was substantially scaled back by President Barack Obama in January 2015 after police in Ferguson, Missouri, responded to civil unrest with military-style gear in 2014.
The Obama administration created a list of prohibited military equipment that police could no longer receive, including armored vehicles on tracks and other weaponized vehicles, rifles and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, and grenade launchers. Another list of controlled equipment, such as aircraft, explosives and riot gear, required police agencies to show a specific need before it was handed over.
Scott, speaking Thursday at this weekly news conference at the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction, said the Vermont State Police will not be seeking the type of equipment Trump’s order will allow police to seek.
“I don’t think there’s a need for some of the armored vehicles or some of the high-velocity weapons that they might have,” he said.
Scott said the state may look to receive other surplus military gear that it has received in the past, however. The state police have received dozens of military-style rifles in the past. The agency also previously obtained a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle, or MRAP, through that program. The MRAP vehicles were used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect them from improvised explosive devices.
“What I would be open to, is, I don’t know what other surplus equipment they have, but if there’s something we use on a day-to-day basis that we can get a good deal on, that would be one thing. But we’re not looking to militarize Vermont in any way,” the governor said.
After sending off a Vermont swift water rescue team to Texas Thursday, Scott said the state may be interested in vehicles that can operate in high water.
“The only possibility, with Texas in mind, if they had any type of vehicle … that could go through a high amount of water, maybe we would think about something like that, but I’m not sure what that is,” he said. “It would be only for emergency management services, not for any military operations.”
Trump’s order will also allow municipal and county police agencies to seek heavy-duty equipment. Although the state does not control what those agencies can obtain, Scott said he hopes they will not seek armored vehicles or high-powered weapons.
“I would discourage them. I think that sends the wrong message. Obviously, they can do what they want on a local level, but I would discourage that, and I’m not sure that they have any interest, either,” Scott said.