New Bill Prohibits Excess Military Weapons to Police

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) applauded todays introduction of the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act by Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA). The bill would start long overdue reforms to the Pentagons 1033 program, which enables the transfer of surplus military equipment to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement.

The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act is a strong first step to begin the herculean task of de-militarizing both our police and our communities, said Diane Randall, FCNLs executive secretary. It is disheartening that a bill like this is needed in our society, but sadly that is the case. Fortunately, no American town will miss their grenade-launcher or military vehicle.

Since 1991, when military equipment transfers first began, the Pentagon has moved upwards of $6 billion worth of military material, the bulk of which went to border states to assist anti-drug activities.

The 1997 National Defense Authorization Act created the 1033 program as it stands today. Rather than improving public safety, the militarization of police forces intimidates communitiesparticularly lower-income communities and people of colorwhile increasing the risks of excessive force and fostering deeper mistrust and frustration.

For well over a decade, military-grade weapons have been sent with little or no accountability to local authorities, said Jos Woss, FCNLs legislative manager for criminal justice and election integrity. Grenades, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, armored and/or weaponized drones, combat aircraft, silencers, and long-range acoustic devises do not make our communities safer. They turn them into war zones all while converting the cop on the beat into a soldier. This is no ones idea of smart policing.

The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act aims to require oversight and transparency of the 1033 program, require law enforcement agencies to have training, and give community notice before participating in the program. Most importantly, it prohibits the transfer of military weapons and equipment that are unnecessary and inappropriate for local police needs.

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Timothy J. McHugh
Friends Committee on National Legislation
[email protected];