CONCORD, N.H. (Nov. 23, 2015) – A New Hampshire legislative study committee continues to consider a proposal that would drastically limit the impact of federal programs militarizing local police.
During the 2015 legislative session, Rep. J.R. Hoell introduced HB407. It would have prohibited state and local police departments from acquiring military vehicles or equipment not readily available in an open national commercial market.
Instead of passing the bill, the legislature amended it and formed a study committee to further consider the issue. The committee has met twice. Once it completes deliberations, it will issue a formal report that will heavily influence future policy decisions.
Hoell has drafted a new piece of legislation for the 2016 session. It would effectively stop state and local law enforcement from obtaining most types of military equipment available through the federal 1033 Program. It would also stop state and local law enforcement agencies from purchasing such gear with federal grant money. The bill bans acquisition of any gear not available on the open market.
“No state agency of political subdivision of the state shall acquire, purchase or otherwise accept for use any military-equipped vehicle or military-grade hardware, including but not limited to armored personnel carriers, Title II weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned ground vehicles, unless such military grade vehicle or hardware is readily available in an open, national commercial market.”
Essentially, the bill would prevent police from obtaining any equipment unavailable to the general public. This would exclude most military-grade gear.
“I have significant concern about the over-militarization of our police,” Hoell said. “Bringing equipment meant for the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, and handing it over to peace officers is not good news for liberty.”
FEDERAL SURPLUS AND GRANT MONEY
Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military grade weapons, including automatic assault rifles, body armor and mine resistant armored vehicles – essentially unarmed tanks. Police departments can even get their hands on military helicopters and other aircraft.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs the “Homeland Security Grant Program,” which in 2013 gave more than $900 million in counterterrorism funds to state and local police. According to a 2012 Senate report, this money has been used to purchase tactical vehicles, drones, and even tanks with little obvious benefit to public safety. And, according to ProPublica, “In 1994, the Justice Department and the Pentagon funded a five-year program to adapt military security and surveillance technology for local police departments that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”
Local agencies almost never have the funds needed to purchase this kind of equipment, and federal money is the only way they can afford it. By banning purchases with federal funding, Hoell’s proposed legislation would effectively nullify the effect of such federal “grant” programs.
COMMAND AND CONTROL
“Arming ‘peace officers’ like they’re ready to occupy an enemy city is totally contrary to the society envisioned by the Founders,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control.’”
In the 1980s, the federal government began arming, funding and training local police forces, turning peace officers into soldiers to fight in its unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” The militarization went into hyper-drive after 9/11 when a second front opened up – the “War on Terror.”
By stripping state and local police of this military-grade gear and requiring them to report on their acquisition and use, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentives for partnerships.
Hoell said obtaining a favorable report from the study committee is imperative to move legislation forward next year. The committee has met twice, but has not issued a report. You still have time to influence the process. If you live in New Hampshire, contact the following committee members and politely, but firmly, ask them to support Hoell’s bill to prevent further militarization of state and local police.
Rep. James Belanger – (603)465-2301
Rep. David Bickford – (603)859-7899
Rep. Marjorie Porter – (603)464-0225
Rep. Franklin Sterling – (603)532-8284
Sen. Russell Prescott – (603)271-3074
For other states: Take action to push back against federal militarization of your police HERE.