Democratic senator to offer amendment halting ‘military weaponry’ given to police
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) is proposing cracking down on the military’s ability to transfer weapons to local police departments.
“I will be introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to discontinue the program that transfers military weaponry to local police departments,” Schatz said Sunday on Twitter.
The Democratic senator made the announcement as protests escalated around the nation in response to the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died while in Minneapolis police custody. Clashes between protesters and officers have led police in several cities to fire tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
In a series of tweets, Schatz said that “it is clear many police departments don’t train and supervise for restraint and de-escalation, and some officers are just plain racist and violent.”
“Combine this with a president who appears enthusiastic about making it worse, and weaponry transferred from [the Department of Defense], and here we are,” he said.
It is clear many police departments don’t train and supervise for restraint and de-escalation, and some officers are just plain racist and violent. Combine this with a President who appears enthusiastic about making it worse, and weaponry transferred from DOD, and here we are.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) May 31, 2020
Schatz’s proposed amendment isn’t the first time lawmakers have attempted to roll back programs that allow for the transfer of military weaponry to local police departments. Schatz and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced legislation in 2015 to prohibit “offensive” militarized equipment, such as drones and armored vehicles, from being given to local and state law enforcement through certain federal programs.
Former President Obama later that year placed a halt on the so-called 1033 program, blocking the transfer of armored vehicles, grenade launchers and armed aircraft, among other things.
The decision came after a string of police shootings of African American men prompted outrage nationwide. Protests in cities such as Ferguson, Mo., also placed a spotlight on the equipment police used when responding to unrest.
The Trump administration rescinded the restrictions in 2017, giving police departments renewed access to military surplus equipment, including grenade launchers, armored vehicles and bayonets.
“Those restrictions went too far,” Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at the time. “We will not put superficial concerns above public safety.”
Protests in the days following Floyd’s death have resulted in significant destruction of private and public property, prompting cities to implement curfews and some states to mobilize the National Guard.
GOP Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) said Monday that President Trump should use the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty U.S. troops to cities impacted by riots.
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