Senator Grassley on military equipment to civilian police departments

Following is Senator Grassley’s response when I wrote to him about Department of Defense’s 1033 program which transfers military equipment to civilian police forces. Following that is an article from the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s (FCNL) statement about that program. This is especially important now as we try to demilitarize the police.

This is a link to a Fact Sheet about 1033 Program & Police Militarization from FCNL:

June 15, 2020

Dear Mr. Kisling:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me. As your Senator, it is important that I hear from you.

I appreciate hearing of your concerns about the use of military equipment by local police departments. Since September 11, 2001, areas that are at high risk of terrorist attack or catastrophic emergency have been the focus of the Department of Homeland Security’s funding. However, we must also continue to invest in the basic infrastructure, equipment and training needs of smaller and rural communities as well. Under the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) provides or transfers surplus military equipment, including vehicles, computers, first aid equipment, radios, tents and sleeping bags to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies without charge. When it’s appropriate, it’s positive to see taxpayers’ money being utilized at the local and state level. Often this kind of equipment can help protect the lives and safety of police officers, who have to confront increasingly well-armed criminals.

As you may know, President Trump signed an executive order entitled, “Restoring State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement’s Access to Life-Saving Equipment and Resources,” on August 28, 2017, to reinstate local police departments’ access to certain surplus military equipment following the Obama administration’s unilateral narrowing of the program.

This program was originally instituted in the 1990s to help local police departments combat the war on drugs. It has helped police departments substantially by not stretching local budgets to the fringe. It has also helped protect many of the men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis. For example, the Justice Department stated that, “a military-style helmet saved the life of an officer responding to the mass shooting in Orlando, Fl., in which a gunman killed 49 [people]. Armored vehicles and military gear were also used to hunt the two terrorists who mounted an attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015.”

The Department of Justice has also said much of the equipment that the local police departments receive is “entirely defensive in nature.” Nonetheless, I agree that there are limits to the kinds of military equipment that are appropriate for civilian police use. Moreover, when law enforcement personnel obtain any of this equipment, they must be trained to use it properly, and only in appropriate situations. And the equipment must be used with safeguards and oversight in place, and with the utmost concern and care for the community, so that it does not cause even more problems than it can potentially help solve. Finally, of course, no one’s First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and protest should be threatened by the use of any such equipment. These considerations are all essential in light of the ongoing protests surrounding the recent deaths of African Americans at the hands of police officers, namely the death of George Floyd.

Your comments will help me should Congress review the 1033 program, and help to ensure that any equipment provided to state and local law enforcement through this program is appropriate, linked with the proper training and oversight, and employed only within the confines of the law and the Constitution.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. I encourage you to keep in touch. Sincerely,

Chuck Grassley
United States Senate                                           

The Department of Defense 1033 program funnels military equipment from the Pentagon to local, federal, and tribal law enforcement.Tell Congress: Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement

Bringing weapons designed for war zones into local police forces in the United States, fuels the perception that local law enforcement is a military force occupying our communities.

With communities of color and poorer communities already experiencing higher incidents of excessive use of force, this militarization of the tools of law enforcement only makes matters worse.

The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 1714) would place much-needed limits on transfers of deadly and militarized equipment to local police departments to ensure they are serving communities not occupying them.

Act now.  Tell your member of Congress to cosponsor and support H.R. 1714.

Tell Congress: Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement, By José Santos Woss,  Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) July 9, 2019

This entry was posted in Friends Committee on National Legislation, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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