Senators push to limit transfer of military-grade equipment to police
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a proposal on Monday to limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies, a practice that has come under increased scrutiny amid protests against police brutality sparked by George Floyd’s death last month.
Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are offering the measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, a mammoth defense policy bill currently being debated by the Senate.
“There is a growing bipartisan consensus that giving local law enforcement military equipment such as bayonets, grenade launchers, armor-piercing bullets, and tear gas is immoral and does nothing to keep people safe,” Schatz said in a statement.
The bipartisan proposal would place limits on the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, which allows the Defense Department to pass on excess equipment to local agencies, by prohibiting the transfer of equipment including tear gas, armor-piercing firearms and ammunition, bayonets, grenade launchers and grenades, combat tracked vehicles, and drones, according to a release from Schatz’s office.
The proposed amendment would not prohibit the transfer of defensive equipment.
The program has been back in the spotlight amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racial inequality sparked by Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.
Former President Obama curtailed the program in 2015 after local police suppressed protests in Ferguson, Mo., using military-grade equipment. But the Trump administration rescinded the restrictions in 2017.
Any attempt to place restrictions on the program will likely face pushback from Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Inhofe batted down concerns about the program earlier this year.
“The program, because I’ve been involved in this for a long period of time — in my state of Oklahoma — in small communities, they really depend on getting equipment, and so I am not concerned about that,” he told reporters.