CONCORD, N.H. (Dec. 14, 2015) – A bill prefiled in the New Hampshire House would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from obtaining most types of military hardware, thereby rejecting federal militarization of police officers.
Rep. J.R. Hoell and seven other representatives have prefiled House Bill 1402 (HB1402). The legislation would prohibit state and local law enforcement from acquiring military-equipped vehicles or equipment not readily available in an open national commercial market. This would eliminate most military gear, including armored combat vehicles.
Police departments would be required to forfeit any military-equipped vehicle or military grade hardware acquired in violation of the act.
The bill not only bans military equipment available through the federal 1033 Program, but would also prohibit police departments from purchasing such gear using grants offered by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.
In practice, the bill would prevent police from obtaining any equipment unavailable to the general public. This would exclude most military-grade gear.
“I have significant concern about the over-militarization of our police,” Hoell said. “Bringing equipment meant for the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, and handing it over to peace officers is not good news for liberty.”
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.”
Local agencies almost never have the funds needed to purchase this kind of equipment, and federal money is the only way they can afford it. By banning purchases with federal funding, HB1402 would effectively nullify the effect of such federal “grant” programs.
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,” said Michael Boldin of the Tenth Amendment Center. “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.
HB1402 has been referred to the House Municipal and County Government Committee.
If you live in New Hampshire: For action steps to follow to help get HB1402 passed click HERE.
For other states: Take action to push back against federal militarization of your police HERE.
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