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article imagePentagon 1033 program helps to militarize US police

By Ken Hanly     Jun 15, 2020 in Politics
When US police flooded street across the US to control protesters a couple of weeks ago, to many the scene looked as if the army had been deployed as many police had camouflage uniforms and combat gear, armored vehicles, and high-powered assault weapons.
US Defense Dept. distributes surplus equipment to police departments
US police departments large and small applaud the program that enables them to receive equipment and gear that would be costly to buy for free. The program was started in 1990 and was later restricted by the Obama administration but these restrictions were removed by Trump as reported in a recent article: "Obama banned the shipment to police of grenade launchers, weaponized vehicles, bayonets, rifles, ammunition of .50 caliber or higher, and certain armored vehicles that resemble tanks. Under Trump, those items are no longer prohibited."
Critics complain program helps to militarize police
Critics of the surplus disposal program complain that it contributed to the overall militarization of the police. This trend has helped to fuel mass nationwide demonstrations against police abuse and deadly tactics particularly against blacks. The demonstrations began in late May after African American George Floyd was killed on May 25th by a Minneapolis police officer.
As soon as the protests began
in Minneapolis the city police force rolled out armored vehicles that seemed more appropriate to appear on some Middle East battlefield. In response to the protest especially in Washington, President Trump actually suggested he might call in the active-duty armed forces to help control protests.
Not just large city forces take advantage of the program
In 2013 police in Flathead County, Montana, which has about 90,000 residents, received an armored vehicle that was mine-resistant. The year before it had received a military transport. Ada Oklahoma with 16,000 residents and 8 full time police and 2 part time members also received a mine resistant armored vehicle in 2019. Over the years it has received 34 M-16 assault rifles.
Even school districts have received equipment. The Bay District in Panama City Florida which has 47 primary and secondary schools received 27 assault weapons and two mine-resistant armored vehicles in just 2012 and 2013.
The Pentagon 1033 program has existed for years
Since 1997 the Pentagon has distributed both new and used surplus equipment including, helicopters, armored vehicles, to handguns to the tune of about $8.6 billion. The material has gone to more than 8,000 federal, tribal, and local police forces according to the US Congress. Just this year alone, about 500 million pieces of surplus equipment was transferred to police departments under the program.
As mentioned earlier President Obama limited the program in 2015 but the original program was restored by President Trump in 2017.
Recent protests prompts lawmakers to try to stop the program
About 200 members of Congress, most Democrats, are sponsoring a bill called "Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act". The bill now in the House of Representatives would limit the transfer of guns, ammunition, grenades, explosives, certain kinds of vehicles, and drones plus other aircraft designed for the battlefield. There is a parallel bill being pushed in the Senate by Democrat Brian Schatz, who has long fought against over-arming police. Rand Paul a Republican Senator has also fought against the 1033 program.
More about 1033 program, militarization of US Police, Donald trump
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