HELENA, Mont. (Mar. 30, 2015) – A bill that would heavily diminish the effect of federal surplus equipment programs that militarize local police was passed by the Montana Senate today. The vote was 46-1.

Introduced by Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R-Superior), House Bill 330 (HB330) bans state or local law enforcement agencies from receiving drones that are armored, weaponized, or both; aircraft that are combat configured or combat coded; grenades or similar explosives and grenade launchers; silencers; and “militarized armored vehicles” from federal military surplus programs.

The bill was strengthened significantly on the Senate side and will go back to the state House, which passed the measure 59-41 last month.

FEDERAL SURPLUS AND GRANT MONEY

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 and other aircraft.

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.”

HB330 goes beyond a prohibition on receipt of surplus equipment under the 1033 program by banning the purchase of such equipment with federal funds. It reads, in part: “If a law enforcement agency purchases property from a military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government, the law enforcement agency may only use state or local funds for the purchase. Funds obtained from the federal government may not be used to purchase property from a military equipment surplus program.”

The legislation also requires law enforcement agencies to notify the public within 14 days of requesting any allowable military gear from such a surplus program.

COMMAND AND CONTROL

Arming ‘peace officers’ like they’re ready to occupy an enemy city is totally contrary to the society envisioned by the Founders. They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control.’

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.”

By stripping state and local police of this military-grade gear and requiring them to report on their acquisition and use, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentives for partnerships.

“Sunshine is the salve of good government,” Schwaderer said.

That is exactly what HB330 will bring to Montana residents if it can pass through the legislature and be signed into law by Gov. Bullock. The bill now goes back to the House for a chance to concur on the Senate version of the bill.

TAKE ACTION

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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