Velazquez Bill Would Demilitarize Police
Measure Would End Military Surplus Program
Washington, DC - Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has introduced legislation to eliminate a controversial program that channels military-grade weapons and equipment to local and state police forces around the nation. The “1033” program was created in the early 1990s, and has resulted in a flood of rifles, armored personnel carriers and other instruments of war being shipped to local police departments. While President Obama vastly limited the 1033 initiative, curtailing law enforcement agencies from acquiring grenade launchers, bayonets and other weapons of war, President Trump fully reinstated the program.
“When our police forces are equipped like an occupying army, they act like one, treating New Yorkers and the American people as an enemy force,” Velázquez said. “The deadly consequences of this policy disproportionately affect people of color and this initiative should be scrapped, completely.”
Between 2006 and 2014, local law enforcement agencies received an array of military equipment worth over $1.5 billion. This included more than 6,000 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, designed for use in warzones like Iraq and Afghanistan. Two such vehicles were sent to New York City. Nationally, the transferred equipment also encompassed nearly 80,000 assault rifles, 205 grenade launchers, 12,000 bayonets, more than 470 aircraft, camouflage and other equipment.
Studies have repeatedly found that when local police departments receive military equipment, they are much more likely to use force. One study indicated that when a county goes from having no military equipment to receiving $2.5 million worth of weaponry the following year as one locality did, civilian deaths at the hands of police are likely to double.
“In recent weeks, we’ve seen footage of these military-grade vehicles being used to confront peaceful protestors who are exercising their first amendment rights to say, ‘Black Lives Matter’ and call for police reform,” Velázquez added. “Not only does deploying this military hardware fail to deescalate tensions, it actually makes the situation far more dangerous and leads to violence.”
A wide range of advocacy groups praised the measure and called for its swift enactment.
“Weapons of war have no place in our communities and the ACLU is pleased to see the introduction of the Demilitarizing Local Law Enforcement Act. This legislation ends the Department of Defense 1033 program, once and for all, that has instigated militarized policing of our communities, schools, borders, and those exercising their First Amendment rights. As the Congress recognizes that the policing status quo is not working, it must take bold steps, like that taken here, to stop providing resources to law enforcement that have been use to harm Black and Brown communities,” said Kanya A. Bennett, Senior Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union.
Maritza Perez, Director, Office of National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance said, “The need to end police militarization is long overdue. Militarized police responses are disproportionately used against people of color during drug investigations. It’s because of the drug war that we have police forces with the money for military-grade weapons and SWAT training. This is what allowed Breonna Taylor to be killed while she slept in her bed. We must abolish theses funding streams beginning with ending the 1033 program."
"CAIR support's Rep. Velazquez's bill to repeal the 1033 military surplus program - a policy that equips our nation's peace officers for war, as some of their tactical gear is actual surplus from the U.S. conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the 90's Congress launched the 1033 program to outfit local police with military gear as a heavy handed response to the War on Drugs and that surplus equipment has been disproportionately used in minority communities. American police officers should not be seen as occupying forces in besieged minority communities. Congress must repeal 1033 today,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations Director of Government Affairs Robert S. McCaw.
“There are many things we need to do to end institutional racism and stop police brutality,” said Yasmine Taeb, Senior Policy Counsel at Demand Progress. “An important step is to demilitarize the police. Militarized policing has terrorized our communities, and in particular, communities of color. Weapons of war have absolutely no place in our communities. We join tens of thousands of our members across the country that are calling on Congress to shut down the 1033 program once and for all.”
Organizations endorsing the bill include: the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), StoptheDrugWar.org, Muslim Advocates, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Immigrant Justice Center, United We Dream Action, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project, Center for Disability Rights, National Association of Social Workers, Open Society Policy Center, Amnesty International USA, Peace Action, Friends Committee on National Legislation, CODEPINK, Win Without War, Demand Progress, Justice for Muslims Collective, Rethinking Foreign Policy, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Freedom Forward, World BEYOND War, New York Immigration Coalition, Defending Rights & Dissent, Beyond the Bomb, Jetpac, Arab American Institute (AAI), National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, Take on Hate, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
In addition to Velázquez, the bill is cosponsored by Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA); James P. McGovern (D-MA); Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC); Adriano Espaillat (D-NY); Barbara Lee (D-CA); Andy Levin (D-MI); and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).