Rep. Johnson reintroduces bipartisan bill to reform Pentagon’s 1033 Program that distributes surplus military-grade weapons to local law enforcement departments without civilian governmental approval

March 17, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) has reintroduced the bipartisan Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2017 (“SMLEA”), which will restrict the transfers of certain surplus military-grade weaponry to state and local law enforcement agencies.

“Our Founders opposed using a standing army to patrol our streets. James Madison called this ‘one of the greatest mischiefs that can possibly happen,” said Rep. Johnson. “The disturbing images we witnessed in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Standing Rock reminded the American people how a militarized police force can make our communities less safe. This is why I am re-introducing the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act, so that we can stop the indiscriminate flow of military-grade weapons from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan to our local police forces.”

Under the “1033 program, the Department of Defense has transferred over $5.1 billion in surplus military equipment to our streets. Small towns and school districts have been given Mine Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles (MRAPs), grenade launchers and high-caliber assault rifles. These weapons are provided to local and state law enforcement agencies simply for the asking, and without the knowledge or approval of the state or local civilian governing authority.

“The indiscriminate distribution of military-grade weapons throughout America runs counter to concepts of community policing, creates division between police officers and citizens, and hurts efforts to bridge the growing gap between the police and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve,” said Rep. Johnson. “H.R. 1556 will shut down the pipeline through which law enforcement agencies are able to acquire military grade weaponry without first obtaining approval from the state and local governmental authority."

The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act would:

· Prevent transfers of equipment, such as military weapons, long-range acoustic devices, grenade launchers, weaponized drones, armored military vehicles, and grenades or similar explosives.

· Limit the incentives for law enforcement to use 1033 equipment inappropriately.

· Require that recipients certify that they can account for all military weapons and equipment.

· Require the Department of Defense to claw back military grade weaponry from state and law enforcement agencies that are being investigated by the Department of Justice for any violation of civil liberties or are otherwise found to have engaged in widespread abuses of civil liberties.

· Create enforcement mechanisms to better monitor and control the transfer of military equipment.

Cosponsors (20): Bobby Scott and Eleanor Holmes Norton (VA), Bobby Rush (IL), Jose Serrano and Jerrold Nadler (NY), Alcee Hastings (FL), Jackie Speier and Mark Takano (CA), Justin Amash (R-MI) and Tom McClintock (R-CA), Dwight Evans (PA), Gwen Moore (WI), Louise M. Slaughter and Nydia Velazquez (NY), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ), Jamie Raskin (MD), Earl Blumenauer(OR), Steve Cohen (TN), Pramila Jayapal (WA).

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.

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