Reacting to the furore surrounding recent crowd control efforts in Ferguson, Missouri, the White House has declared its intention to review of military-to-police equipment loans/transfers. Not to be outdone, Congress is holding its own hearings on police militarization. Ahead of these initiatives, npr.org did a data dive into the 1033 program funneling weapons and supplies to state and local police. Here’s an accounting of the equipment doled-out by the Pentagon’s Law Enforcement Support Office, from 2006 through April 23, 2014 . . .
79,288 assault rifles
205 grenade launchers
3,972 combat knives
$124 million worth of night-vision equipment, including night-vision sniper scopes
479 bomb detonator robots
50 airplanes, including 27 cargo transport airplanes
More than $3.6 million worth of camouflage gear and other “deception equipment”
Bayonets? But not one for every gun! You guys are just going to have to share. Anyway, those 79,288 “assault rifles” account for a relatively paltry $40m of Uncle Sam’s largesse, as compared to the top category winner: vehicles ($700m). Those MRAPs don’t come cheap.
Los Angeles is the birthplace of SWAT teams and ground zero for some of the country’s worst race riots and most questionable police operations. The City of Angels scarfed the lion’s share of the government-issue rifles (3,452). Next up: Leon County, Florida, home to 275,487 souls (2010 census). Go figure, remembering that Leon County and many of the counties listed above are home to state capitals.
I take the position that police possession of military-style equipment (e.g., no-knock SWAT teams) creates the strong likelihood that it will be used. And abused. TTAG contributor Sgt. Patrick Hayes reckons the 1033 program is not a bad thing in and of itself. It saves taxpayers money and provides much needed logistical support to local and state law enforcement.
Over at reason.com Stephen Downing seems to agree. He sees police militarization as a symptom of “us vs. them” policing and other failed policies, rather than a cause. Here’s his prescription for fixing the underlying issues:
- Ending the war on drugs.
- Prohibiting the use of local police resources to “partner” with the federal government in programs that divert police resources away from matters of public safety in favor of federal policy.
- Ending federal programs, such as the 1033 program, that provide materials, training, and equipment to local law enforcement.
- Ending local law enforcement’s dependence upon all funding that promotes a mission contrary to Constitutional policing.
- Ending asset seizures not accompanied by a criminal conviction.
- Establishing “consent search” policies that prohibit fishing expeditions and unreasonable detentions.
- Establishing effective civilian oversight to independently investigate all allegations of police misconduct.
- Establishing stronger ties with our communities by supporting full transparency related to allegations of police misconduct and establishment of police policy.
- Repealing all legislation that conceals the identity of police officers from the public when internal investigations involve police shootings, allegations of excessive force, and matters of honesty and integrity.
- Ending arrest quota management practices and reward systems.
- Establishing policies that address the abuses of “interfering” and “failure to obey” arrest laws.
- Restricting police union activity to matters related to wages and working conditions and prohibiting the use of membership funds to influence local elections.
- Prohibiting the use of public funds to support membership in law-enforcement organizations that support goals and lobbying activity contrary to the mission, goals, ethics, and policies of local law enforcement.
De-funding and de-politicizing police and quasi-police unions? Yeah, that’s gonna be popular with the pols and the po-po.
Regardless, this is as good a template for police demilitarization as I’ve seen. The chances that the President’s “blue ribbon” panel will examine, adopt and implement most – indeed any of these reforms is nil. Still, the first step to solving a problem is to identify it.
Done. Now what?