Bill to track, re­duce mil­i­tary gear given to po­lice

The Covington News - - LOCAL - MARTIN RAND III news@cov­

U.S. Con­gress­man Hank John­son of Ge­or­gia, Dis­trict-4, will in­tro­duce a bill to House mem­bers that’s tak­ing aim at the Pen­tagon’s 1033 Pro­gram, which gives mil­i­tary-grade weapons and equip­ment to state and lo­cal law en­force­ment de­part­ments for free.

The goal of the bi-par­ti­san leg­is­la­tion isn’t to do away with the 1033 pro­gram, said Andy Phe­lan, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for John­son, but to only re­form it.

Phe­lan said that John­son wants to stop let­ting lo­cal po­lice re­ceive sur­plus U.S. mil­i­tary equip­ment, such as Mine-Resistant Am­bush Pro­tected, or MRAPs, ve­hi­cles, Humvees and au­to­matic weapons from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be trans­ferred to lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments free of charge.

Po­lice de­part­ments have also re­ceived grenade launch­ers, which are usu­ally used for smoke grenades and tear gas.

Con­gress­man John­son’s pro­posed leg­is­la­tion will also add re­quire­ments to en­force track­ing mech­a­nisms that keep up with and con­trol trans­fers of the equip­ment given to lo­cal agen­cies, im­ple­ment poli­cies en­sur­ing that po­lice agen­cies can’t sell the sur­plus equip­ment they re­ceive and de­fine drones more clearly.

“Mil­i­ta­riz­ing Amer­ica’s main streets won’t make us any safer, just more fear­ful and more ret­i­cent,” John­son said in a press re­lease an­nounc­ing the bill Aug. 20. “Be­fore another small town’s po­lice force gets a $700,000 gift from the De- fense Depart­ment that it can’t main­tain or man­age, it be­hooves us to press pause on Pen­tagon’s 1033 pro­gram and re­visit the mer­its of a mil­i­ta­rized Amer­ica.”

In 2012, an Ari­zona sher­iff was ac­cused of dis­tribut­ing Humvees, fire trucks, med­i­cal equip­ment and other sup­plies in vi­o­la­tion of the pro­grams rules.

“If we are go­ing to give mil­i­tary equip­ment away for free, surely we must en­sure that lo­cal po­lice or­ga­ni­za­tions are us­ing the equip­ment prop­erly and can ac­count for this equip­ment,” the con­gress­man asked his col­leagues in a let­ter ob­tained by The News.

John­son will of­fi­cially in­tro­duce the Stop Mil­i­ta­riz­ing Law En­force­ment Act of 2014 bill Sept. 8 when the House re­con­venes its ses­sion. Repub­li­can Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho will be a co-spon­sor.

Both Repub­li­cans and Democrats have ex­pressed in­ter­est in the bill, says Phe­lan, but it’s hard to de­ter­mine the ac­tual in­ter­est un­til the bill is on the floor and ev­ery­one is in the room.

“We’re con­tin­u­ing to work to get more co-spon­sors,” he said.

John­son first ex­pressed in­ter­est in re­form­ing the 1033 pro­gram in March when he co-wrote an opin­ion piece about his de­sire to re­form the pro­gram.

The events that have been hap­pen­ing Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, where pro­test­ers of the Michael Brown slay­ing, an un­armed 18-year-old who was shot mul­ti­ple times and killed by Fer­gu­son Of­fi­cer Dar­ren Wilson, are be­ing met with mil­i­tary-grade weapons, made it clear to John­son that lo­cal law en­force­ment was be­com­ing more mil­i­tary than po­lice.

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