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Three Republicans have signed on to Rep. Hank Johnson’s (D-GA) bill to stop handing free military equipment to local police. The three Republicans are Reps. Raul Labrador (R-ID), Tom McClintock (R-CA) and Justin Amash (R-IL). The bill was formally introduced today. Democrats John Conyers and Jim Moran are also co-sponsors.
Rep. Johnson says he expects more Republicans to sign on.
Johnson and the others want to reform the Pentagon’s 1033 Program which gives military-grade weapons to local law enforcement departments at no charge.
After the unrest in Ferguson. Mo., in August in the wake of the police shooting of teenager Michael Brown, images of local police using military weapons against demonstrators in a small American midwestern town alarmed many.
“Before another small town’s police force gets a $700,000 gift from the Defense Department that it can’t maintain or manage, it behooves us to press pause on the Pentagon’s 1033 program and revisit the merits of a militarized America,” Johnson said.
“Our nation was founded on the principle of a clear line between the military and civilian policing,” Rep. Labrador said in a statement. “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.”
According to Rep. Johnson’s website, 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 legislation also 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.