Senator Brian Schatz Thinks Maybe Police Should Stop Playing G.I. Joe All Day
On Sunday morning, human rights organization Amnesty International issued a statement decrying the militarization of the United States police force -- and later in the afternoon, Democratic Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii announced on Twitter that he would be introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to end the transfer of military weaponry to local police departments that definitely should not, under any circumstances, have it. You know, because they are police departments charged with protecting American citizens, and not military forces at war.
I will be introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to discontinue the program that transf… https://t.co/XB92h9IYO9— Brian Schatz (@Brian Schatz)1590956042.0
Since 1990, the military has distributed weapons and other tactical equipment to non-military entities. At first it was just for federal and state agencies, to be used specifically in the War on Drugs, but then, in 1997, the 1033 Program was established, under which the military could distribute said military equipment to local police departments. Since then, billions and billions of dollars worth of this equipment has been given out to these departments -- and it's not a matter of public record, so no one knows exactly what has gone where. It has, in the past, included things like AR-15s, grenade launchers, tanks and MRAP vehicles (tanks meant to protect soldiers from landmines), which really do not seem like the kinds of things police need unless they are planning on killing people or being somewhere around a landmine.
In 2015, a year after the use of this equipment in Ferguson, Missouri. was heavily criticized, President Barack Obama rolled it back, discontinuing donations of such heavy artillery, and making it so if local law enforcement felt they needed less imposing military equipment, there would be heavy restrictions and oversight. As there should be.
"We've seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people the feeling like there's an occupying force — as opposed to a force that's part of the community that's protecting them and serving them," President Obama said at the time, adding that it "can alienate and intimidate residents and make them feel scared."
Instead of tanks and grenade launchers, we were supposed to get more community policing and enhanced officer training. Boy, that sure would have been nice!
Alas, once Donald Trump assumed office, he brought it back, probably because it made him feel like a big tough army man instead of a rich kid with "bone spurs." Honestly, at this point we should be surprised he hasn't given them nukes.
Whether not Schatz's amendment passes, it will surely be interesting to see anyone actually try and explain why local police departments need so desperately to be able to launch grenades at American citizens.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse