A bill in the Vermont General Assembly would create more oversight as to the acquisition of federal military equipment by local law enforcement agencies, setting the stage for the program to be stopped in the future.

Introduced by Rep. Janet Ancel and 16 co-sponsors, House Bill 8 (H.8) would authorize the state attorney general to oversee all transfers of federal military equipment and require their permission prior to the transfer. Furthermore, the attorney general would be tasked with developing the criteria necessary for a local law enforcement agency, in which they would have to a show a “demonstrated need for the military equipment,” a “determination of whether specialized training is necessary for safe use of the equipment” as well as an evaluation of equipment storage and maintenance requirements.

For a program without oversight, this is a welcome change, said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “Until recently, most people weren’t even aware these military transfers were happening,” he said. “By shining a light on these activities, it creates an atmosphere where the public can take additional action to bring them to an end.”

The AG would have to file a written report to the General Assembly before January 15 of each year listing the number of equipment transfers, the name of each law enforcement agency that received equipment, a description of the equipment received, and the stated purpose for which the equipment will be used.

The bill would also mandate the Attorney General, through the adjutant and inspector general, conduct a review of all such transfer between July 1, 2005 to July 1, 2015 and report to the General Assembly by September 15, 2015. The review would examine the federal programs in the state, policies on the distribution of the equipment, and whether it correlates to the needs of the law enforcement agencies.

By January 15, 2016, the attorney general would review the above report to “determine whether applicable State policies, procedures, and guidelines currently governing the transfer of military equipment to law enforcement agencies pursuant to the federal program established…should be revised.

While this bill wouldn’t stop the flow of military equipment from the feds to local police, it would create more oversight and give the public a greater opportunity to prevent their acquisition.

According to a New York Times article by Matt Apuzzo, 435 armored vehicles, 44,900 night vision goggles, 535 planes or helicopters, 93,763 machine guns, and 180,718 magazines have been transferred to local and state police departments across the nation.

As previous reports on this website have stated, such transfers have led to a drastic increase in police militarization in recent years in which police departments increasingly look like armies. This appearance also affects their attitude and behavior.

One such report includes this anecdote:

In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff’s department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone, like those used to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists in the remote tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer hasn’t died from gunfire in the line of duty in more than 125 years, police bought eight $1,500 tactical vests. Police in Des Moines, Iowa, bought two $180,000 bomb-disarming robots, while an Arizona sheriff is now the proud owner of a surplus Army tank.

H.8 has been assigned to the House Committee on Government Operations where it will first need to pass by a majority vote before the full house can consider it.

TAKE ACTION

In Vermont: Contact all the members of the House Committee on Government Operations and urge them to vote YES on House Bill 8.

In Other States: Contact your state legislators and politely demand that they legalize medical marijuana by introducing a similar bill. You can find their contact information by clicking HERE.


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