A bill introduced in the Montana legislature would prohibit state and local officials from owning or using certain military equipment, whether provided through the Department of Defense’s 1033 program or other grants, and would also indirectly thwart federal efforts to enforce unconstitutional laws.
Representative Schwaderer introduced HB330 on Jan 28. The bill would place limits on the types of military equipment a local or state police department can purchase, audit the current inventory, and require oversight of allowed military grade equipment
The legislation prohibits state or local law enforcement agencies from obtaining automatic weapons “not generally recognized as suitable for law enforcement purposes,” armored or weaponized drones, combat aircraft, grenades or other explosives (including flash-bangs), silencers, long-range acoustic devices, and tanks or tank-like vehicles.
The bill requires that when a law enforcement agency obtains allowable surplus military equipment under the law, it must provide a certification that it has the personnel and technical capacity, including training to operate the property, an explanation of how the it expects to use the property, and certify that if it determines that the property is no longer needed, it will return the property to the department of defense or otherwise decommission the property. Law enforcement agencies must also notify the community and the state department of justice if it requests military grade equipment from the federal government.
As we saw during in the aftermath of the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo. last year, local police have turned into militarized forces with little respect for the people they were meant to serve. And Ferguson was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
The ACLU recently released a report chronicling the militarization of local law enforcement. It documents the rapid increase SWAT team deployment utilizing paramilitary tactics. According to the ACLU, in nearly 80 percent of the cases, SWAT teams were rolled out for nothing more than serving warrants, usually relating to drug crimes. Almost daily, we hear reports of innocent people getting hurt in these raids.
“They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control,’” Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin said.
Washington D.C. can largely take credit for creating the aggressive paramilitary response America witnessed in Ferguson, and played out on a smaller scale in cities across America every day.
In the 1980s, the federal government began arming, funding and training local police forces, turning peace officers into soldiers to fight in its unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” The militarization went into hyper-drive after 9/11 when a second front opened up – the “War on Terror.”
Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military grade weapons, including automatic assault rifles, body armor and mine resistant armored vehicles – essentially unarmed tanks. Police departments can even get their hands on military helicopters.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs the “Homeland Security Grant Program,” which in 2013 gave more than $900 million in counterterrorism funds to state and local police. According to a 2012 Senate report, this money has been used to purchase tactical vehicles, drones, and even tanks with little obvious benefit to public safety. And, according to ProPublica, “In 1994, the Justice Department and the Pentagon funded a five-year program to adapt military security and surveillance technology for local police departments that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”
By stripping state and local police of this military-grade gear, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentives for partnerships.
HB330 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee
In Montana: Support this bill by following all the steps at THIS LINK
For other states: Take action to push back against federal militarization of your police at this link.
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