ALBANY, N.Y. (June 25, 2020) – Bills introduced in the New York Assembly and Senate would ban state and local law enforcement agencies from acquiring certain military equipment from federal programs.
Sen Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx), along with four fellow Democrats, introduced Senate Bill 8507 (S8507) on June 6. Assm. Ron Kim (D-Flushing) introduced the companion, Assembly Bill 10669 (A10660), on June 17. The legislation would prohibit a state or local law enforcement agency from receiving or purchasing the following property from a military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government.
- Drones that are armored, weaponized, or both
- Aircraft that are combat configured or combat coded
- Grenades or similar explosives and grenade launchers
- Militarized armored vehicles
The proposed law would also require law enforcement agencies to publish a notice on their publicly accessible website within 14 days of requesting allowable military equipment from a federal program.
The legislation applies both to the well-known 1033 program, along with any other military surplus program operated by the federal government, as well as federal programs that fund the acquisition of surveillance equipment.
While passage of S8507/A10669 wouldn’t end the militarization, it would keep some dangerous weapons out of the hands of police officers set the stage for further limits in the future.
Police departments often obtain military and surveillance equipment from the federal government in complete secrecy. Requiring public disclosure of all requests for military gear 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.” The DHS doles out over $1 billion in counterterrorism funds to state and local police each year. 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 S8507/A10669 would limit New York’s participation in federal police militarization programs and create a framework of transparency. 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 S8507/A10669 would take a first step toward limiting police militarization in New York.
S8507 was referred to the Senate Rules Committee. A10669 was referred to the Assembly Government Operations Committee. The bills must pass their respective committees by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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