Civil Disobedience Series #2
The recent protests have once again illustrated the military force that the local police departments have……how did it come to this?
How did the police, the champions of the local protect and serve, become just another arm of the Pentagon?
When did the police need to be an extension of the force and power of the military?
It’s easy enough to buy tactical gear in the US, and the Homeland Security Grant Program has funneled billions of dollars to law enforcement agencies to acquire military-grade equipment. But for decades, a primary driver for why it can be so hard to tell a National Guard troop from a local cop has been the Department of Defense itself, through a program that has parceled out everything from bayonets to grenade launchers to precincts across the country.
Created as part of 1997’s National Defense Authorization Act, the 1033 program allows the Department of Defense to get rid of excess equipment by passing it off to local authorities, who only have to pay for the cost of shipping. (A precursor, the slightly more restrictive 1208 program, began in 1990.) According to the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), which oversees the process, over $7.4 billion of property has been transferred since the program’s inception; more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies have enrolled. Much of that inventory is perfectly ordinary: office equipment, clothing, tools, radios, and so on. But the haul also includes some of the so-called controlled equipment—rifles, armored vehicles, and so on—that have helped create such a spectacle of disproportion.
There are attempts to try and roll back this militarization program…..
That year alone, some 500 million pieces of military equipment were transferred to the country’s police services under the 1033 program.
But the recent anti-police protests have recharged efforts to stop it.
This week around 200 lawmakers in Congress, mostly Democrats, sponsored a bill, the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act”, to again reel in the program.
The bill, in the House of Representatives, would strictly limit the transfer of guns, ammunition, grenades, explosives, certain kinds of vehicles, and drones and other aircraft designed for the battlefield.
Not to worry…this should go nowhere in the Senate.
It is time for Biden to step up and make this a campaign issue….but sadly he is just as guilty as anyone in DC over this overuse of police military force….but now is the time to come out JOE!
But how do we fix this? Remedies are not easy to find or implement. One avenue to mitigate these defects in our society is to limit the capacity of the state to perpetrate this violence on its own people. Despite some tepid attempts to control it after the events in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, the events of the last few days unequivocally show that police militarization continues apace — materially, culturally, and conceptually. Addressing militarization cannot fix the scourge of racism, but it could limit the tools by which racists can realize their goals. Slowing police militarization is not enough. It is time to roll it back.
Demilitarizing local police forces across America should be a central part of the Biden campaign’s platform. It seems unlikely at this juncture that the Trump administration would ever seriously consider such measures, leaving this to his successor, whether it is Joe Biden or someone else in 2024. Police militarization is both ineffective and widely unpopular across the political spectrum. If elected, Biden would have a significant mandate to fundamentally change the relationship of the police with the citizens they are ostensibly sworn to protect.
But Biden is worried that if he steps up the opposition will paint him as someone who wants to “de-fund” the police…so he may steer clear of this and continue to throw crap at a problem that needs leadership to repair.
1033 Program…what is it?
I agree that PDs need a SWAT to handle these sensitive situations but the whole department does not need to be snipe qualified.
This is where to begin the reform of police departments….then move on to training and community relations…..but military equipment should be sparingly shared.
If there is too much excess equipment then maybe dial back the orders that only make more profit for the makers…..maybe someone should look into the DoD and 1033 Program in depth.
The biggest obstacle to any reform or change will be those groups that call themselves a union….police unions……
Advocates argue that moderate reforms like enhanced training and greater community oversight have failed to curb police violence and misconduct.
But there’s a major, and usually insurmountable, obstacle to reform: police unions. Research suggests that these unions play a critical role in thwarting the transformation of police departments.
Union officials like John McNesby in Philadelphia, where I live and work as a scholar of law and the criminal justice system, do not deny this. Over the course of his 12-year career as president of the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, he has derided the city’s civilian review board and predicted in 2010 that beefed-up misconduct procedures would wind up “… at the bottom of the litter box.”
Personally, I do not consider so-called “police unions” as actual unions they are more like an association that does not work for labor at all but rather the hierarchy of the PDs.
Just a thought
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