Last week, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) reintroduced the Stop Militarizing Our Law Enforcement Act (S. 1856) to establish limitations and create greater transparency on the federal transfer of surplus military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.
“I support our law enforcement officers, but I do not believe it is beneficial for neighborhoods across the United States to have the same kind of military-grade weapons that are commonly used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our bill institutes reforms to stop militarization while ensuring local police still have access to bulletproof vests and other protective equipment,” said Sen. Paul.
“As we work to rebuild the trust between communities and the police, we can’t ignore the role that the federal government has played in arming police departments with equipment more suitable for a war zone than a local neighborhood,” said Sen. Schatz. “Our bill would stop the steady supply of battlefield equipment from entering our communities and put safeguards in place to ensure that federal funds are used more appropriately.”
“Oregonians respect local law enforcement, but they don’t expect patrols in our neighborhoods outfitted for war zones. Unfettered access to military equipment erodes the trust between local police and the people they have sworn to protect,” said Sen. Wyden. “Our bipartisan bill will restore a more sensible balance between the legitimate needs of law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
- Limits the transfer of military-grade equipment: Prohibits the federal transfer of militarized equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies – including MRAPs, drones, and armored vehicles.
- This prohibition only applies to offensive equipment and does not prohibit the transfer of defensive equipment, such as body armor.
- Enacts comprehensive reforms: These prohibitions will apply to the three federal transfer and grant programs that are most utilized to militarize police forces – the DOD 1033 program, the DOJ Byrne JAG grant program, and DHS Preparedness grants.
- Reduces surplus equipment: According to the DCAA, a substantial amount of equipment transferred to law enforcement under the 1033 program is either new or barely used. Under this bill, recipients of federal transfers of military equipment must prove the equipment is not surplus to their needs and are required to return it to DOD if it is.
- Increases transparency for transfers: The Defense Logistics Agency will create a website that displays all the property transferred under the 1033 program and which state and local agencies have received the property.
- Requires the return of prohibited equipment: Each federal or state agency that has received prohibited equipment through the 1033 program is required to return it to DOD. The cost for the return of such equipment will be supported by the DOJ Byrne JAG program and the DHS Preparedness grant program.
- Mandates GAO report on federal use of militarized equipment: The GAO is required to analyze the use of military-style training and equipment by all federal agencies – including the usefulness and justification for the use of such equipment.