TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Jan. 13, 2020) – A bill filed in the Florida House would put limits on state and local law enforcement agencies’ ability to acquire certain military equipment from federal programs.
Rep. Travaris McCurdy (D-Orlando) filed House Bill 187 (H187) and it was formally introduced on Jan. 8. The legislation would prohibit any Florida law enforcement agency from acquiring, purchasing, or accepting on any terms the following military equipment:
- A weaponized unmanned aerial vehicle;
- An aircraft that is configured for combat or is combat-coded and has no established commercial flight application;
- A grenade or similar explosive or grenade launcher; or
- An armored multi-wheeled vehicle that is mine-resistant, ambush-protected, and configured for combat
Law enforcement agencies already in possession of such equipment would be barred from using it without permission of the executive director of the Department of Law Enforcement
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 surplus military equipment.
While the passage of H187 wouldn’t end the militarization of local cops, it would keep some dangerous weapons out of the hands of police officers and set the stage for further limits in the future.
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 Trump’s action rescinded an Obama-era policy meant to provide greater transparency and oversight around the Department of Defense 1033 program and other federal resources that provide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 H187 would limit Florida’s participation in federal police militarization 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 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 H187 would take a first step toward limiting police militarization in Florida.
H187 will be officially introduced and referred to a committee when the Florida legislative session begins on March 2. It will need to pass committee by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.