There were signs that President Barack Obama might rein in the mass militarization of America's police forces after he won the White House. Policing is primarily a local issue, overseen by local authorities. But beginning in the late 1960s with President Richard Nixon, the federal government began instituting policies that gave federal authorities more power to fight the drug trade, and to lure state and local policymakers into the anti-crime agenda of the administration in charge. These policies got a boost during Ronald Reagan's presidency, and then another during President Bill Clinton's years. Under President George W. Bush, all of those anti-drug policies continued, but were supplemented by new war on terrorism endeavors -- yet more efforts to make America's cops look, act and fight like soldiers.
But Obama might have been different. This, after all, was the man who, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004, declared the war on drugs an utter failure. As Reason magazine's Jacob Sullum wrote in a 2011 critique of Obama's drug policy:
Obama stood apart from hard-line prohibitionists even when he began running for president. In 2007 and 2008, he bemoaned America’s high incarceration rate, warned that the racially disproportionate impact of drug prohibition undermines legal equality, advocated a “public health” approach to drugs emphasizing treatment and training instead of prison, repeatedly indicated that he would take a more tolerant position regarding medical marijuana than George W. Bush, and criticized the Bush administration for twisting science to support policy -- a tendency that is nowhere more blatant than in the government’s arbitrary distinctions among psychoactive substances.