Senators Merkley, Wyden and Colleagues Introduce a Bill to Prohibit Federal Law Enforcement Officers From Wearing Camouflage Combat Fatigues in the U.S.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with 32 of their Senate Democratic colleagues, today introduced legislation to prohibit federal law enforcement officers from wearing camouflage battle fatigues in the United States in most cases, since they can easily be confused for military personnel or even extremist para-military groups.
General Mark A. Milley stated at a House Armed Services Committee hearing in July: “You want a clear definition between military forces and local police.”
“Dressing and equipping police like warriors sends a message to those officers and to the public that they are at war with the public they are sworn to protect and defend,” said Merkley. “The Trump administration’s excessive violence and secret police tactics against peaceful protesters crying out for justice should shake every American to their core. To change the culture of law enforcement, to protect Black lives, to stand up for civil liberties, we must demilitarize law enforcement.”
“Americans around the country have rightly been peacefully protesting the police violence against Black Americans, only to be met with military force from federal law enforcement deployed to American cities by Donald Trump,” Wyden said. “American cities aren’t battlefields and law enforcement must act and be equipped accordingly. Yet, Donald Trump is fanning the flames of division, fear and violence with the militarization of federal officers. These authoritarian tactics must be stopped.”
The Clear Visual Distinction Between Military and Law Enforcement Act would also recognize that there are rare circumstances when a rare exception is needed for federal law enforcement officers to engage in a discreet tactical operation requiring a camouflage pattern. The legislation would also demand rigorous oversight of any time the previously mentioned exception is invoked by requiring a biannual report to Congress that details the date, operation and justification for each invocation.
This summer, camouflaged federal operatives were sent to Portland by the Trump administration—a move that quickly escalated tensions and injured demonstrators. The unmarked, camouflaged uniforms also closely matched the attire worn by some far-right militias, at a time when extremist militias have been showing up at racial justice protests across the country. Merkley and Wyden vocally opposed the presence and forceful tactics of the federal agents, demanded that they leave, called for a formal investigation into their deployment and violent actions, and introduced legislation to block paramilitary operations in Portland and other American cities.