WAND calls for Reforms to Program Allowing DOD Equipment Transfers to Law Enforcement

Updated: Jan 14

WAND joins Demand Progress, Human Rights First, Project on Government Oversight, The Center for International Policy, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, VoteVets, and others to call for limitations to the Department of Defense's 1033 program, which allows for the transfer of weapons of war at minimal or no cost to police departments around the country.

In a letter endorsed by WAND to Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Anthony G. Brown (MD-04), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (CA-37) and 41 Members of Congress said, “Our law enforcement agencies are meant to serve and protect the public and they should not be equipped like combat units.”

Dear Chairman Inhofe, Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Reed, and Ranking Member Thornberry:

As House and Senate conferees negotiate the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), we encourage you to ensure that the conference report includes provisions requiring reform of the Sec. 1033 Program by imposing additional conditions and limitations on the transfer of Department of Defense property for law enforcement activities.

Reforms proposed to the Sec. 1033 program have broad support across the two chambers of Congress as both the Senate and the House have unequivocally stated that we must increase the oversight and restriction of transfers of military equipment to law enforcement. In the Senate, Sec. 1054 was offered by Chairman Inhofe as an amendment to the NDAA, and it passed in a strong, bipartisan vote of 90-10. In the House, more comprehensive reforms of the program were incorporated in the Justice in Policing Act, which passed in a bipartisan fashion by a 236-181 vote. 

Our law enforcement agencies are meant to serve and protect the public and they should not be equipped like combat units. Sec. 1054 in S.4049 ensures that items that have no place in law enforcement - bayonets, grenades, weaponized tracked combat vehicles, and weaponized drones - may no longer be transferred from the federal government to Tribal, State, or local law enforcement agencies. These commonsense reforms will ensure American cities and streets are not transformed into warzones.

Furthermore, the provision ensures that any law enforcement agency receiving defense property conducts training on “respect for the rights of citizens under the Constitution of the United States and de-escalation of force.” The fundamental rights of free speech and assembly are core to our democracy and must be respected by all government personnel. Our cities and states should institute training that teaches police to respect communities’ cultures and to problem-solve rather than treat every interaction as a potential confrontation. Incorporating the training required by Sec. 1054 will bolster the understanding of law enforcement officers on the Constitutional rights of all Americans and ensure peaceful protests are not met with unnecessary force.

Additionally, we request that the conferees include additional oversight and reform of the Sec. 1033 program in accordance with the bipartisan consensus on this issue, to include:

  • guaranteeing that local governing authorities have accountability, jurisdiction, and oversight of any transfers;

  • requiring annual accounting for excess property transferred to law enforcement agencies;

  • requiring additional notifications to Congress regarding activities under the program; and

  • establishing remedies for misuse of the equipment