Rep. Johnson reintroduces bipartisan bill to de-militarize police
March 9, 2021
Congressman works to rein in 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 2021 that would place restrictions and transparency measures on the “1033 program,” which allows the Department of Defense (DOD) to transfer excess military equipment to law enforcement agencies.
“Our neighborhoods need to be protected, but Americans and our founding fathers opposed blurring the line between police and the military,” said Johnson. “What has been made perfectly clear – especially in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder – is that Black and Brown communities are policed one way – with a warrior mentality – and white and more affluent communities are policed another way. Before another town is transformed into a warzone with gifts of grenade launchers and high-caliber rifles, we must rein in this program and revisit our view of the safety of American cities and towns.”
Rep. Johnson, a former county commissioner in Georgia, said there is something fundamentally flawed with local law enforcement departments bypassing their local governing authority – such as a commission, board or council – to receive weapons of war without any local accountability.
Through the Defense Logistics Agency’s Law Enforcement Support Office, which oversees the 1033 program, the Department of Defense has transferred $7.4 billion in surplus military equipment – often from warzones overseas – to our streets, for only the cost of shipping.
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.
- 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, implements policies ensuring that police agencies can’t surplus the equipment for resale, and defines drones more clearly.
For a copy of the bill, click HERE.
Cosponsors (74): Adams (Alma), Barragan, Bass, Beatty, Beyer, Blumenauer, Bowman, Brown (Anthony), Bush, Castor, Cicilline, Clark (Katherine), Clarke (Yvette), Cohen, Connolly, DeFazio, DeGette, DeSaulnier, Eshoo, Espaillat, Evans, Foster, Gallego, Garcia (Chuy), Garcia (Sylvia), Gomez, Green, Grijalva, Hastings, Hayes, Huffman, Jackson Lee, Jayapal, Jones (Mondaire), Kaptur, Khanna, Larsen, Lawrence (Brenda), Lee (Barbara), Levin (Andy), Lowenthal, Matsui, McClintock, McCollum, McGovern, Moore (Gwen), Moulton, Norton, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Payne, Pingree, Pocan, Porter, Pressley, Price ,Raskin, Rush, Schneider, Scott (Bobby), Scott (David), Schakowsky, Sewell, Speier, Takano, Tlaib, Tonko, Torres (Ritchie), Trahan, Veasey, Velazquez, Watson-Coleman, Welch.
Supporting organizations (56): American Federation of Teachers, Beyond the Bomb, Campaign for Liberty, Center for Civilians in Conflict, Center for International Policy, Center on Conscience & War, Church World Service, CODEPINK, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Common Defense, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Defending Rights & Dissent, The Feminist Foreign Policy Project, Foreign Policy For America, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Gays Against Guns, Government Information Watch, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Historians for Peace and Democracy, Human Rights First, Japanese American Citizens League, Jetpac, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, Justice is Global, Justice for Muslims Collective, Massachusetts Peace Action, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, Open the Government, Oxfam America, Pax Christi USA, Peace Action, Poligon Education Fund, Progressive Democrats of America, Project Blueprint, Project On Government Oversight (POGO), The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, Restore The Fourth, ReThinking Foreign Policy, RootsAction.org, Secure Families Initiative, Security Policy Reform Institute (SPRI), Southern Border Communities Coalition, Stand Up America, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, The United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society, U.S. Labor Against Racism and War, Veterans for American Ideals, Women's Action for New Directions, World BEYOND War.
What they are saying:
“With over 1,000 deaths at the hands of police every year, we should be looking to restrain police, not arm them with deadly militarized weapons. Sadly, that’s exactly what we’re doing with the 1033 Program,” said José Woss, Legislative Manager at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “As a Quaker, I know that each and every single life is precious with that of God dwelling in their soul. It’s alarming that peaceful protestors and everyday citizens are treated like threats in a war zone. The dehumanization and violence on display in communities of color is even worse. The 1033 program has no place in our streets, it must be ended.”
“Demilitarizing the police is a crucial step towards the broader goals of ending institutional racism and stopping police brutality,” said Yasmine Taeb, Human rights lawyer and progressive activist. “Militarized policing supported by weapons of war has terrorized our communities, and in particular, our communities of color. The militarization of domestic law enforcement perpetuates institutionalized racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, and contributes to the maintenance of a society where the lives of Black and Brown people don’t matter. It is past time for Congress to pass the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act and end the transfer of military weaponry under the 1033 Program."
“As an international humanitarian agency, Oxfam sees firsthand how the unchecked flow of weapons fuels human rights abuses and suffering around the world," said Noah Gottschalk, Global Policy Lead at Oxfam America. “We’re seeing the same patterns here in the US, where the weapons of war transferred through the 1033 Program have not made people safer, but instead fueled increased violence against civilians -particularly Black and historically marginalized communities - at the hands of increasingly militarized police forces. Representative Johnson's bill is a key step towards reversing this deadly trend and re-imagining the future of policing, community safety and justice in the United States.”
“The Council on American-Islamic Relations strongly supports Congressman Hank Johnson’s Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act. In re-evaluating how to create more just federal, state and city law enforcement budgets, CAIR encourages Congress to work with elected officials to explore every option for reform that scales down and demilitarizes police forces,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations Director of Government Affairs Department Robert S. McCaw.