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

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 in violation of civil liberties.

Lastly, we request that the conferees oppose the prioritization of Sec. 1033 transfers for counterdrug, border security, and non-natural disaster emergency preparedness activities included in Sec. 1041 of S. 4049. This provision encourages the continued militarization of government activities that should instead be conducted under the principles of community policing.


The military is among the most respected institutions in American society, and rightly so. Congress should both leverage and enhance the military’s reputation by making sure it bolsters democracy at home in a manner consistent with our values. We thank you for your consideration of this request, and your dedicated and steadfast commitment to our national security, both domestically and overseas.


Sincerely,


House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Anthony G. Brown (MD-04), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (CA-37),Reps. Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), André Carson (IN-07), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Lacy Clay (MO-01), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Mike Doyle (PA-18), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Bill Foster (IL-11), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Deb Haaland (NM-01), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Denny Heck (WA-10), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Joe Kennedy III (MA-04), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Daniel T. Kildee (MI-05), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Ted W. Lieu (CA-33), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (GU-AL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Donald M. Payne (NJ-10), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Katie Porter (CA-45), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Kathleen M. Rice (NY-04), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), John Sarbanes (MD-03), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), David Trone (MD-06), Marc A. Veasey (TX-33) and Bonnie Watson-Coleman (NJ-12).


Demand Progress, Human Rights First, SPLC Action Fund, Project on Government Oversight, The Center for International Policy, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, VoteVets, Women's Action for New Directions, Government Information Watch, Japanese American Citizens League and Defending Rights & Dissent


More information here.

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