Reps. Johnson, Labrador introduce bill to de-militarize police

Congressmen want 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) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R) (ID-01) introduced the bipartisan Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014 (H.R. 5478), which would place restrictions and transparency measures on the Department of Defense (DOD) Program that transfers surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.

“Militarizing America’s main streets won’t make us any safer, just more fearful and more reticent,” said Johnson. “Before another small town’s police force gets a $750,000 gift from the Defense Department that it can't maintain or manage, it behooves us to press pause on Pentagon’s 1033 program and revisit the merits of a militarized America.”

“Our nation was founded on the principle of a clear line between the military and civilian policing,” said Labrador. “The Pentagon’s current surplus property program blurs that line by introducing a military model of overwhelming force in our cities and towns. Our bill would restore the focus of local law enforcement on protecting citizens and providing due process for the accused.”

The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act would:

-- Prevent transfers of equipment inappropriate for local policing, such as high-caliber weapons, long-range acoustic devices, grenade launchers, armed drones, armored vehicles, and grenades or similar explosives.

-- End incentives to use equipment in circumstances when the use is unnecessary. Under the 1033 program, local police are required to use the equipment within a year, incentivizing towns to use it in inappropriate circumstances.
-- Require that recipients certify that they can account for all equipment. In 2012, the weapons portion of the 1033 program was temporarily suspended after DOD found that a local sheriff had gifted out army-surplus Humvees and other supplies. This bill would prohibit re-gifting and require recipients to account for all equipment received from DOD.

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.

The Pentagon’s 1033 Program permits surplus U.S. military equipment, such as Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), Humvees and automatic weapons from warzones in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be transferred to municipal police departments free of charge.  While appropriate in a war, much of this equipment is not suited for civilian law enforcement.

Original co-sponsors are: Reps. John Conyers, D-MI; Jim Moran, D-VA; Justin Amash, R-MI; and Tom McClintock, R-CA.