Lawmakers unveil bill to de-militarize cops

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A pair of House lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday designed to de-militarize the nation’s local police departments.

Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which arms local law enforcers with surplus military equipment, goes too far to put the tools of war onto America’s streets.

{mosads}”Our nation was founded on the principle of a clear line between the military and civilian policing,” Labrador said in a statement. “The Pentagon’s current surplus property program blurs that line by introducing a military model of overwhelming force in our cities and towns.”

The new proposal would scale back the program by barring the transfer of certain equipment from the Pentagon to local police departments, including high-caliber weapons, sound cannons, grenades, grenade launchers and certain armored vehicles. It would also adopt new reporting requirements designed to ensure that equipment that is transferred under the program is not lost, stolen or misappropriated. 

The issue of arming local law enforcers was thrust into the national spotlight last month after the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

Images of the police response to protests — which included the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, assault rifles and military-grade vehicles — went viral on the Internet and fueled bipartisan calls for an examination of how local law enforcers operate.

“Militarizing America’s main streets won’t make us any safer, just more fearful and more reticent,” Johnson said Tuesday in a statement.

The proposal has attracted at least 17 co-sponsors, including Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.) Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.), senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. 

Tags Ferguson shooting Jim Moran Justin Amash Law enforcement militarization

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