CONCORD, N.H. (Jan. 11, 2016) – A bill filed in the New Hampshire Senate would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from obtaining certain types of military hardware from the federal government, and would require public notice before they acquire authorized equipment. Passage of this legislation would represent a big step toward stopping the federal militarization of state and local police.
Sen. Sam Cataldo (R-Farmington) introduced Senate Bill 472 (SB472) on Jan. 6. The legislation would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from acquiring some of the most deadly military surplus equipment available through federal programs. Banned items include automatic weapons not generally recognized for law enforcement purposes; drones that are armored or weaponized; combat configured aircraft; grenades or similar explosives, including flash-bangs, stun grenades and grenade launchers; silencers, long-range acoustic devices; and tanks or tank-like vehicles.
SB472 would require state and local law enforcement agencies to give 30-day public notice before procuring allowable military equipment through federal surplus programs. It would also require the department of safety to maintain a publicly accessible website containing a description of property obtained by law enforcement agencies through any military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government, including any property obtained by the law enforcement agency before the effective date of the law.
This type of public disclosure could lead to public pressure to stop militarization at the local level before it happens.
The law would not only apply to equipment available through the federal 1033 Program, but also to gear available for purchase using grants offered by the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.
A bill introduced in the New Hampshire House by Rep. J.R. Hoell takes a different approach, but would have similar effect. HB1402 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 the items specifically prohibited in SB472, and more.
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, SB472 and 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.
SB472 has been referred to the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee.
If you live in New Hampshire: For action steps to follow to help get SB472 passed click HERE.
For other states: Take action to push back against federal militarization of your police HERE.
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