A bill introduced in the Nevada state Assembly last week 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.
Introduced by Assemblypersons John Moore (R-8), Brent Jones (R-35) and Jill Dickman (R-31) on March 17, Assembly Bill 397 (AB397) would put serious roadblocks in the way of federal militarization of police, adding civil liberties protections for Nevada residents. The bill states, in part, that:
A law enforcement agency may not request or accept the following property from a military equipment surplus program operated by the Federal Government, including, without limitation, the United States Department of Defense’s 1033 Excess Property Program:
(a) Armored or weaponized drones;
(b) Aircraft that are combat configured or combat coded;
(c) Grenades or grenade launchers;
(d) Silencers; or
(e) Militarized armored vehicles.
The legislation also mandates for law enforcement agencies to “publish a notice of the request on its Internet website within 60 days of making the request” to the federal government for surplus equipment not banned under the bill. Law enforcement agencies are defined as “the sheriff’s office of a county; a metropolitan police department; a police department of an incorporated city; or the Nevada Highway Patrol.”
In addition, AB397 puts restrictions on the deployment of SWAT Teams, limiting their deployment to the following instances:
(a) There is an imminent threat of causing a substantial adverse effect on the health, safety and welfare of a human life; and
(b) The use of regular peace officers will be insufficient to secure the premises and de-escalate the present situation.
The bill would strengthen warrant protections for Nevada residents as well. It requires for officers, while serving warrants, to “identify himself or herself and state the purpose of entering the premises as soon as practicable when executing a warrant” except when there is “probable cause based upon evidence offered under oath that the object of the warrant may be easily destroyed, disposed of or concealed or” there is “reason to believe, based upon specific, articulable facts, that physical harm to any person may result if notice of authority and purpose were given.”
Bills such as AB397 to restrict police militarization are gaining traction in various states. 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 incentive for partnerships. Bills like AB397 can serve as a tool to put the squeeze on the enforcement of unconstitutional laws by denying the warrior cops the feds need to enforce their “laws.”
AB397 must now pass through the Assembly Judiciary Committee successfully before it can receive a full vote in the state assembly.
In Nevada: 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.