Hawai’i Sen. Schatz calls for President Biden to take steps to demilitarize the police
US Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) was part of a coalition of senators who sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to step up efforts to demilitarize the police.
The letter urged limiting the transfer or purchase of certain military equipment for federal, state, tribal, territorial and local law enforcement agencies.
“Militarized law enforcement increases the prevalence of police violence without making our communities safer,” the letter said. “Now is the moment to make these necessary reforms.”
The letter sought reforms to the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which allows transfer of surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies, and the 1122 program, which allows law enforcement agencies to purchase military equipment.
The letter was also signed by senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Casey (D-PA).
The senators cite reports showing police militarization fails to reduce rates of violent crime or change the number of officers assaulted or killed. Instead, arming police departments with military equipment has led to an increase in officer-involved shootings and civilian deaths.
Some of the reforms sought:
- Prohibit transfer of armor-piercing firearms and ammunition, grenades and grenade launchers, explosives and tear gas.
- Prohibit the use of transferred equipment against First Amendment-protected activities, such as the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances.
- Allowing emergency responders, humanitarian and social service nonprofits to have access to non-lethal surplus property — first aid kits, emergency gear, etc. — to fit their missions.
In 2020, Sen. Schatz led efforts to improve the 1033 program, forcing a vote on amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act. The final provision included in the act and signed into law restricted the transfer of bayonets, grenades, weaponized tracked combat vehicles and weaponized drones. It also required law enforcement agencies that receive 1033 equipment to certify that their police officers receive annual training on respect for the rights of citizens under the Constitution and de-escalation of force.
The full text of the letter follows and is available here.