On Thursday, November 13, I had the opportunity to discuss my bipartisan bill -- Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014 (H.R. 5478) -- in a House Armed Services Subcommittee Hearing on the Pentagon's 1033 Program.
The 1033 Program permits surplus U.S. military equipment, such as Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), Humvees and automatic weapons from warzones in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be transferred to city police departments free of charge. While these military-grade weapons are much-needed by our military on the field of battle, I believe they are ill-suited for our local police departments whose purpose is to protect American civilians.
The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act would place restrictions and transparency measures on the Department of Defense (DOD) Program that transfers surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.
In a fundamentally misguided effort to stop Americans from using drugs in the 1990s, Congress allowed the DOD to provide surplus military equipment -- often from warzones overseas -- to local police for free. To date, more than $5 billion in this equipment has been transferred.
This equipment, including Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles (MRAPs), grenades, launchers, and other weapons, is turning America's local police forces into something more akin to an army.
Access to free military-style weapons has created a perfect storm for police violence. This year alone in Georgia, a baby was badly burned when police dropped a "flash bang" grenade in his crib during an early-morning drug raid and a grandfather was killed by police in a commando-style raid on his house in October.
My bipartisan bill reining in the 1033 program now has 44 cosponsors. It would curtail the types of equipment that local law enforcement agencies can get for free from the DOD.
The bill would also require detailed accounting to ensure that equipment is not lost or sold. You may be surprised to hear this, but the bill also ends a statutory requirement that law enforcement use the equipment they receive.
You read that right. Today, law enforcement is required to use that free MRAP or grenade launcher. This is a common sense proposal that I hope my colleagues on the committee -- and in the entire House -- will seriously consider.