SALEM, Ore. (March 5, 2017) – A bill introduced in the Oregon House would significantly limit the impact of federal programs that militarize local police.
Rep. Chris Gorsek (D-Troutdale) and Rep. Carla Piluso (D-Gresham) introduced House Bill 3243 (HB3243) on March 2. The legislation would bar state and local police departments from acquiring certain types of military gear from federal military surplus programs, and would require public disclosure before police could obtain allowable equipment. The law would apply both to the well-known 1033 program along with any other military surplus program operated by the federal government.
Under the proposed bill, law enforcement agencies would not be able to receive or maintain automatic weapons not generally used or recognized as suitable for law enforcement purposes, weaponized drones, combat aircraft, grenades (including flash-bangs and stun grenades), firearms silencers, long-range acoustic devices, and tanks or similar vehicles.
Before procuring allowable military surplus from a federal program, law enforcement agencies would be required to give public notice at least 30 days prior and would also have to inform the Oregon Department of Justice.
Police departments often obtain military equipment from the federal government in complete secrecy. By requiring public notice, HB3243 would bring the process into the open and provide an opportunity for concerned residents to stop the acquisition through their local governments.
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.”
HB3243 would stop police from getting prohibited equipment from both 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. 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.
As of the writing of this report, HB3243 had not been referred to a committee. Once it receives a committee assignment, it will have to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.