ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Jan. 26, 2018) – A bill introduced in the Maryland House would significantly limit the impact of federal programs that militarize local police.
Del. David Moon (D-Montgomery Co.), along with six Democrat cosponsors, introduced House Bill 240 (HB240). The legislation would prohibit police from procuring any of the following equipment from a federal military surplus program.
(1) An armored or weaponized aircraft; drone; or vehicle;
(2) A destructive device
(3) A firearm silencer
(4) A grenade launcher
The proposed law would also require any law enforcement agency that requests property from a military equipment surplus program to publish a notice of the request on a publicly accessible website within 14 days after the request,
The provisions of HB240 would apply to military equipment available both through the well-known 1033 program, along with any other military surplus program operated by the federal government.
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.
Police can also get military equipment through the Department of Homeland Security via the (DHS) “Homeland Security Grant Program.” In 2013, DHS 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.”
In August 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that gave a push to local police militarization. Trump’s action rescinded an Obama-era policy meant to provide greater transparency and oversight around the Department of Defense 1033 program and other federal resources that provide military weapons to local police.
Passage of HB240 would take the first step toward limiting police militarization by prohibiting Maryland police departments from getting specific military equipment from both programs. It would also increase transparency and stop police departments in the state from getting military equipment in secret. Making the process more transparent to the public will empower people to oppose and stop militarization before it happens.
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. 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.”
Making it more difficult for local police to acquire this military-grade gear will make them less likely to cooperate with the feds by removing some of the incentives for partnerships. Passage of HB240 would take a first step toward limiting police militarization in Maryland.
HB240 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.