The 1033 Program and the Militarization of American Police Forces

Let's open this posting with two videos.  Here is a recent confrontation between Denver police forces and a non-protesting civilian vehicle containing a pregnant woman (second video):

Denver. Police were firing pepper bullets and tear gas at cars stopped at an intersection, targeting a car with a pregnant woman.

A man yells at them “You’re shooting my car with my girlfriend in it? My pregnant girlfriend in it?”

The cops open fire on him with pepper rounds.

— Chad Loder (@chadloder) May 31, 2020

Here is what happened to an elderly man with a cane when he got in the way of Salt Lake City's Rescue Team (aka SWAT Team) when they arrive on the scene of a burned out police vehicle (21 minute 45 second mark):

With these recent events in mind, let's look at one of the main reasons behind the increasing violence meted out on America's civilian population by its police forces; militarization.

Let's look at some background first.  Back in 1997, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the 1033 program was enacted to allow the Department of Defense to offload excess equipment to local law enforcement agencies for no cost (except for shipping costs which are borne by the law enforcement agency) though the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) division of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) as shown here:  

According to LESO, since its inception, the 1033 program has transferred more than $7.2 billion worth of property to local law enforcement with $293 million worth of equipment being transferred in fiscal year 2019 alone (values are based on initial acquisition costs).  Requisitions cover a very wide spectrum; from clothing and office supplies, tools and reduce equipment up to small arms and tactical vehicles which have benefited more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States.  Of the transfers, only five percent are small arms ($360 million worth) and one percent are tactical vehicles ($72 million worth).

On the DLA's High Visibility Property webpages we find these two pages:

1.) Small Arms (under .50 caliber):

LESO states that small arms obtained though the 1033 program are on loan from the Department of Defense and may not be permanently modified; when arms are returned to the DoD, they must be restored to their original configuration.

2.) Tactical Vehicles:

The 1033 program certainly looks like "one-stop shopping" for all of civilian law enforcement's military needs, doesn't it?  

LESO is required to release data of its "accountable property" on a quarterly basis since fiscal year 2016. Since Minnesota is the source of the most recent policing "issues", let's look at what the state has acquired through the 1033 program.  In total, Minnesota state law enforcement agencies have acquired 5,651 items with acquisition values ranging from $0.41 for a dust and moisture sealed protective cap to $865,000 for mine resistant vehicles.   Here is a complete listing of the Mine Resistant Vehicles that have been acquired by Minnesota's law enforcement agencies and which agencies have acquired this equipment because, after all, you can never have enough mine resistant vehicles:

In total, the state of Minnesota's law enforcement agencies have received at least $10,203,112 worth of DoD castoffs since the program began.

According to Campaign Zero, a police reform campaign that seeks to end police violence, one of the issues that has led to the increasing conflict between police and citizens is the militarization of America's law enforcement agencies.  They have the following recommendations:

1.) End the federal government's 1033 program.

2.) Establish local restrictions to prevent law enforcement agencies from purchasing or utilizing military weaponry as follows:

a) prevent police from using federal grant money to purchase military equipment.

b.) prevent police from deploying armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, drones, Stingray surveillance equipment, camouflage uniforms, and grenade launchers.

c) prevent police from using SWAT teams unless there is an emergency situation or imminent threat to life and high-ranking officers have given approval.

d) prevent police from conducting no-knock raids.

e) prevent police from accessing federal grant money or purchasing military equipment if the department has been recently found to demonstrate a "pattern or practice" of discriminatory policing.

f) wherever possible agencies should seek to return to the federal government the military equipment that has already been received.

Over the past decade, it has become increasingly clear that America's law enforcement officials have taken an "us against them" philosophy when dealing with the citizens who pay their salaries.  The militarization of America's police has led to a scenario where the use of deadly force is just part of the business plan that is being used when dealing with the public, a business plan that has led to the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans at the hands of those that are hired to protect us. 

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