SALEM, Ore. (Jan. 21, 2021) – A bill filed in the Oregon House would ban state and local law enforcement agencies from acquiring certain military equipment from federal programs and place other limits on police militarization.

Rep. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie) and Rep. Julianne Fahey (D-West Eugene) filed House Bill 2481 (HB2481) on Jan. 11. The legislation would ban state and local law enforcement agencies from receiving the following equipment from military surplus programs operated by the federal government.

  • Unmanned aircraft systems that are armored or weaponized
  • Aircraft that are combat-configured or combat-coded
  • Grenades or similar explosives, or grenade launchers
  • Firearms silencers
  • Mine-resistant vehicles, unmanned ground vehicles or militarized combat, assault or armored vehicles.

The bill would also prohibit law enforcement agencies from using federal funds to purchase allowable equipment from military surplus programs. They would be required to use state or local funds.

HB2481 includes provisions to increase transparency. Police departments requesting allowable equipment from federal military surplus programs would be required to publish notice of the request on a publicly accessible website within 14 days after the request.

The legislation applies both to the well-known 1033 program, along with any other military surplus program operated by the federal government.

While passage of HB2481 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 and banning federal funding 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 HB2481 would limit Oregon’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. The passage of HB2481 would take a first step toward limiting police militarization in Oregon.

WHAT’S NEXT

HB2481 will be officially introduced when the legislature convenes on Jan. 19. It will then be referred to a committee where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.


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