CONCORD, N.H. (November 13, 2017) – A bill prefiled in the New Hampshire House would opt the state out of a federal program that facilitates the sale or transfer of certain military equipment from the federal government to state and local law enforcement.
A coalition of eight legislators introduced HB1431 (HB1431) for the 2018 session. Titled the PEACE (Police Equipment and Community Engagement) Act of 2018, the legislation would prohibit the state and its political subdivisions from acquiring military-equipped vehicles that are not available in an open commercial market.
The bill reads, in part:
Except as provided in paragraph I, no state agency or political subdivision of this state shall acquire, purchase, or otherwise accept for use any military-equipped vehicle or military grade hardware, including but not limited to armored personnel carriers, Title II weapons, unmanned aerial vehicles, or unmanned ground vehicles, unless such military grade vehicle or hardware is readily available in an open national commercial market. Any military-equipped vehicle or military grade hardware acquired in violation hereof shall be forfeited.
Similar legislation (HB1402) was introduced last year and tabled after the House Municipal and County Government Committee voted it inexpedient to legislate by an 11-4 vote.
FEDERAL SURPLUS AND GRANT MONEY
Under Section 1033 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997 and other programs like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “Homeland Security Grant Program,” local police are able to obtain military weaponry and other hardware to the tune of $1 billion per year. Police can procure equipment including automatic assault rifles, night vision equipment 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.”
Access to some types of equipment by local cops was restricted under the Obama Administration, but In August, Pres. Donald Trump signed an executive order that once again opened the door for local police departments to obtain certain surplus military equipment through these controversial federal programs.
Since the 1033 program’s inception, New Hampshire agencies have received over $6 million in military hardware, according to HB1431.
This naturally causes police departments to treat their own towns as war zones and the residents who they claim to protect and serve as potential enemy combatants. HB1431 says this program “is becoming more frequent and more militaristic in nature.”
Case in point: In New Hampshire, the Concord Police Department attempted to obtain a $258,000 “free” BearCat armored vehicle. In their application for the vehicle, the police chief said that it might be needed against nonviolent groups such as the Free State Project and other peaceful political dissidents.
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.
HB1431 was referred to the House Municipal and County Government Committee, The 2018 New Hampshire legislative session will begin Jan. 3.
TJ Martinell is an author, writer, and award-winning reporter from Washington state. His dystopian novel The Stringers depicting a neo-Prohibition Era in the city of Seattle is available on Amazon.