ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 20, 2022) – Two bills introduced in the New York Legislature would ban state and local law enforcement agencies from acquiring certain military equipment from federal programs.
Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx) and four fellow Democrats introduced Senate Bill 1069 (S1069). Asm. Ron Kim (D) and a coalition of Democrats introduced Assembly Bill 3115 (A3115) . The legislation would prohibit New York state and local law enforcement agencies from receiving or purchasing certain property from a military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government. These items include;
- 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
- camouflaged uniforms
- riot gear
- firearms or ammunition
- explosives or pyrotechnics
- chemical incapacitants
The proposed laws 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.
Both bills were introduced in the 2021 legislative session and carry over to 2022.
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 either S1069 or A3115 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
Police can get military-grade weapons through a number of federal programs, including the 1033 program, and via the Department of Homeland Security through 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. Biden was reportedly planning to reinstitute the Obama policy, but to date has not followed through. Regardless, the Biden “reform” was nothing more than window-dressing. In practice, the Obama EO did little to stem the flow of military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.
Even if Biden eventually gets around to putting the Obama-era limits back in place, the 1033 program would remain essentially intact. Military gear would continue to pour into local police agencies, just as it did when Obama was in the White House.
The multiple federal flip-flops underscore the importance of putting limits on police militarization at the state and local levels. Federal policy tends to change depending on the party in power. Whatever limits Biden imposes through executive order can be undone with a stroke of the next president’s pen. The only way to effectively end police militarization for good is permanently withdrawing the state from these federal programs.
The passage of S1069 or A3115 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 either S1069 or A3115 would take a first step toward limiting police militarization in New York.
S1069 was referred to the Senate Finance Committee and A3115 was referred to Assembly Governmental Operations Committee . They must pass out with a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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