OAKLAND, Calif. (Sept. 30, 2019) – Activists in Oakland have ramped up efforts to take a first step toward limiting the impact of federal programs that militarize local police.
American Friends Service Committee (AFCS) will host a community town hall on policing and military equipment in support of efforts to pass a city ordinance requiring approval by the Oakland City Council for the acquisition of military equipment, and use policies and reporting for military equipment that the Oakland Police Department has or obtains in the future.
As AFCS points out, “Oakland has no policy for the acquisition or use of militarized equipment. Oakland PD can acquire and use military equipment of all kinds – anywhere, at any time, with no policy for its use or public reporting of what it has or how it is used.” The organization notes, “Several studies conclude police departments that acquire military-grade equipment are more likely to use violence and are no more successful in reducing crime.”
An ordinance requiring council approval for the procurement of military equipment by law enforcement would take a first step in limiting police militarization in Oakland. As the AFCS noted, police departments often obtain military equipment from the federal government in complete secrecy. Requiring local government approval would bring the process into the open and provide an opportunity for concerned residents to stop the acquisition through their local representatives.
FEDERAL SURPLUS AND GRANT MONEY
Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military-grade weapons. Police can also get military equipment through the Department of Homeland Security via the (DHS) “Homeland Security Grant Program.” In 2013, DHS 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.”
In August 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that gave a push to local police militarization. Trump’s action rescinded an Obama-era policy meant to provide greater transparency and oversight around the Department of Defense 1033 program and other federal resources that provide military weapons to local police.
Passage of an ordinance in Oakland would create a framework for accountability and transparency for police militarization programs in the city. It would also create a foundation for the public to stop their local police from obtaining this type of gear.
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 making it more difficult for local police to get this military-grade gear and surveillance technology, and ensuring they can’t do it in secret, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentives for partnerships. Passage of an ordinance would take a first step toward limiting police militarization in Oakland.
The community town hall on policing and military equipment will take place Thursday, October 3, 2019, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church of Oakland,
2501 Harrison St.