Rep. Johnson reintroduces bipartisan bill to de-militarize police

Congressman wants to reform Pentagon’s 1033 Program that gives military-grade weapons to local law enforcement departments for free

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) re-introduced the bipartisan Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 1232) that would place restrictions and transparency measures on the Department of Defense (DOD) Program that transfers excess military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.

“Our Founders opposed using a standing army to patrol our streets,” said Johnson. “In fact, James Madison called this ‘one of the greatest mischiefs that can possibly happen.’ Under the 1033 program however, America’s streets are becoming increasingly militarized. That is why we are introducing the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.” 

Under the Pentagon's excess property, or “1033,” program, the Department of Defense has transferred $4.2 billion in surplus military equipment – often from warzones overseas – to our streets without charge. Recently, dozens of small towns have been given tank-like Mine Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles (MRAPs). Others have received grenade launchers and high-caliber assault rifles. Even campus police are receiving advanced equipment and weaponry.

Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) is among more than 40 cosponsors of the bill.

The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act would:

  • Prevent transfers of equipment inappropriate for local policing, such as military weapons, long-range acoustic devices, grenade launchers, weaponized drones, armored military vehicles, and grenades or similar explosives.
  • End incentives to use equipment inappropriately. Under the 1033 program, police are required to use the equipment within a year of receiving it, possibly incentivizing unnecessary use. A recent study found that only 7 percent of SWAT deployments – which often involve military gear – were for hostage or active shooter scenarios. This bill would eliminate the one year requirement and give local law enforcement discretion to use the equipment when necessary.
  • Require that recipients certify that they can account for all military weapons and equipment. In 2012, the weapons portion of the 1033 program was temporarily suspended after DOD found that a local sheriff gifted out army-surplus Humvees and other supplies. This bill would prohibit re-gifting and require recipients to account for all DOD weapons and equipment.

The bill adds requirements to enforce tracking mechanisms that keep up with and control transfers of the equipment, implement policies ensuring that police agencies can’t surplus the equipment for resale and define drones more clearly.

Cosponsors (41): Ellison, Holmes Norton, Scott (VA), Clark (MA), Chu, Speier, Clay, Nadler, Lee (CA), Edwards, Van Hollen, Conyers, Rangel, Scott (D-GA), Amash, Farr, Tonko, Lofgren, Perlmutter, Cardenas, Blumenauer, Lowenthal, Jackson Lee, O’Rourke, Pallone, Serrano, Grijalva, Hastings, McDermott, Kaptur, Lewis (GA), Rush, Honda, DeGette, Cummings, Deutch, Danny Davis, Pocan, Waters, McClintock, Grayson, Cohen, McGovern, Defazio.

Supporting Organizations: American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Americans for Immigrant Justice, American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International USA, Bend the Arc Jewish Action & Bend the Arc, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Border Network for Human Rights, Center for Community Change in Action, Community to Community Development – C2C, The Constitution Project, Defending Dissent Foundation, Detention Watch Network, Drug Policy Alliance, FedCURE, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Justice Strategies, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, NAACP, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc., National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), Pax Christi USA, Prison Policy Initiative, Rise Up Georgia, RootsAction, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team, Southern Border Communities Coalition, Washington Office on Latin America.