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Schatz Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation To Stop Police Militarization

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) today reintroduced the bipartisan Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act to establish limitations and create greater transparency on the federal transfer of surplus military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies. This prohibition only applies to offensive equipment and does not prohibit the transfer of defensive equipment, such as body armor.

“Weapons of war don’t belong in our local police departments and should never be used against the American people,” said Senator Schatz. “This is not the only thing we need to do, but as we see our communities turning into what looks more like a war zone, it’s clear that we need to fix this.”

Reports have shown that 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.

The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act:

  • Limits the transfer of military-grade equipment: Prohibits the federal transfer of militarized equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies – including MRAPs, drones, and armored vehicles.
    • As noted above, this prohibition only applies to offensive equipment and does not prohibit the transfer of defensive equipment, such as body armor.
  • Enacts comprehensive reforms: These prohibitions will apply to the three federal transfer and grant programs that are most utilized to militarize police forces – the DOD 1033 program, the DOJ Byrne JAG grant program, and DHS Preparedness grants.
  • Reduces surplus equipment: According to the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), a substantial amount of equipment transferred to law enforcement under the 1033 program is either new or barely used. Under this bill, recipients of federal transfers of military equipment must prove the equipment is not surplus to their needs and are required to return it to DOD if it is.
  • Increases transparency for transfers: The Defense Logistics Agency will create a website that displays all the property transferred under the 1033 program and which state and local agencies have received the property.
  • Requires the return of prohibited equipment: Each federal or state agency that has received prohibited equipment through the 1033 program is required to return it to DOD. The cost for the return of such equipment will be supported by the DOJ Byrne JAG program and the DHS Preparedness grant program.

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined Schatz in introducing the legislation, which Schatz originally introduced in May 2015.