- United States police departments are donating protective gear to Ukraine, CNN reported.
- Departments work with nonprofit organizations to send equipment such as vests and helmets.
- Experts said it was unprecedented for law enforcement to send supplies to another country.
In an unprecedented move, US law enforcement is sending police equipment to Ukraine to help civilians.
Police departments across the country have teamed up with charities to send needed protective equipment to Ukraine, CNN reported. The nonprofit organization The Ukrainian American Coordinating Council, for example, said it has obtained licenses from the Department of Commerce and the Department of State to ship certain military-grade restricted items to Ukraine.
The UACC did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, but Mick Safron, an executive member of the UACC board of directors, told CNN that the organization’s license does not allow them to send equipment only to civilians who have joined territorial defense units.
Additionally, US Army veteran Alex Plitsas told CNN that some police equipment is not military grade and therefore does not need approval to ship. CNN also noted that there were no reports of arms or ammunition being sent.
Last week, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced that the state was sending 146 hard hats and 714 ballistic vests to Ukraine. The equipment was donated by multiple law enforcement agencies, according to a news release.
“Ukrainian men and women took up arms alongside their army to protect their homeland from Putin’s unprovoked attack,” Reynolds said. “Iowa has a special connection to Ukraine through our sister state relationship with Cherkasy. Today’s donation fulfills an urgent need in Cherkasy and represents an incredible team effort from everyone the state.”
Similarly, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said his state donated 50 pieces of protective equipment, including 321 body armor and 69 Kevlar helmets.
“As they defend their homeland, Ukrainians are in dire need of protective equipment. Agencies large and small across Nebraska have stepped up to help meet this need. I am grateful for the generosity of the Nebraskas who donated these critical supplies,” Ricketts said in a press release.
Experts told CNN it’s not common for law enforcement to send supplies to help a foreign country during a war.
While organizers said their efforts were legal, experts also told CNN the federal government probably shouldn’t allow police departments to send materials overseas.
Valerie Morkevičius, an associate professor of political science at Colgate University, told CNN that while there may be moral and ethical reasons for a police department to help Ukrainians, there are broader implications.
“If we want to say it’s OK this time, what benchmarks could we change for future actions?” she says.
When considering making a donation, a State Department spokesperson told Insider to contact the Ukrainian Embassy first to confirm that the items they wish to export meet an immediate need. Then, “items must first be assessed to determine how they are controlled for export purposes,” the spokesperson said.
“Donations of export-controlled defence-related products are subject to U.S. government regulations and may require authorization,” the spokesperson said. “Prospective donors are responsible for complying with relevant export controls.”
The Commerce Department did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.