Both Houses of Congress React After Events in Ferguson Highlight Excessive Militarization of Local Police Departments, Program's Effects on Police-Community Relations
Washington, DC–Today House Representatives Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Raul Labrador (R-ID) introduced the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act to reform Program 1033, which provides military equipment to local law enforcement. The bill would increase oversight, decrease the use of the program’s use in counterdrug operations, and ban certain types of equipment from being distributed to local police forces. As evidenced by a recent ACLU report, the majority of SWAT raids in which this equipment are now used for drug searches.
“Very occasionally and with proper oversight and training, the use of some military equipment is appropriate—school shootings, terrorist situations and the like,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “But when it’s routinely used against nonviolent drug offenders, it only serves to further strain police-community relations so vital to preventing and solving violent crime. This bill will correct some of the worst excesses of a potentially useful program hijacked by the war on drugs.”
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on the same subject last week after the death of black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri triggered protests that inspired a police response that briefly shone a global spotlight on the issue. LEAP advisory board member and retired Seattle police chief Norm Stamper was invited to contribute written testimony to those hearings.
“How a law enforcement agency is organized—not just the work it does on the streets—gives rise to and shapes an imposing workplace culture…” Stamper wrote. “Given the federal government’s generosity in distributing military equipment… we have seen even tiny, rural police departments transformed into small armies, their peace officers converted into soldiers… It is no wonder that so many Americans believe their local cops have become an occupying force, military in appearance, military in demeanor, military in tactics.”
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officers opposed to the war on drugs.