Dem. Rep Drafting Bill to Limit Police Militarization

by Ian Tuttle

In the wake of the events in Ferguson, Mo., Democratic congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia is drafting a bill that would limit the Pentagon program that supplies military surplus equipment to local law enforcement. The Hill reports:

“As the tragedy in Missouri unfolds, one thing is clear. Our local police are becoming militarized,” Johnson’s office said in a statement. 

Johnson said he will introduce the bill in September, when Congress returns from a five-week recess. He has been worked on the legislation for months, but his office said the current situation highlights the need for the bill.

According to Defense Department statistics, the 1033 program — created as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1997 and facilitated by the Law Enforcement Support Office — has transferred more than $5.1 billion in supplies to more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies in its 17-year lifespan. Last year, the program provided for the transfer of $449.3 million in Department of Defense property.

According to USA Today:

St. Louis County law enforcement agencies received twelve 5.56 millimeter rifles and six .45 caliber pistols from the Department of Defense between Aug. 2, 2010, and Feb. 13, 2013, a Missouri public safety official confirmed Thursday. . . . The Pentagon allows information on “tactical” equipment to be released only at a county level, so which police department(s) in the county received the weaponry is not available.

Earlier this summer, Representative Chris Stewart (R., Utah) proposed related legislation, the Regulatory Agency De-Militarization Act, to decrease the number of federal agencies (such as the Department of Agriculture or Department of Education) with their own SWAT-type forces.

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