Minnesota Bill Would Limit Federal Militarization of Police
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (July 16, 2020) – A bill introduced in the Minnesota House would limit state and local law enforcement agencies’ ability to acquire military equipment from the federal government.
Rep. Hodan Hassan (D-Minneapolis) and Rep. Jay Xiong (D-St. Paul) introduced House Bill 43 (HF43) on July 13. The legislation would prohibit any state or local unit of government or law enforcement agency from acquiring “military-grade weapons” through the federal 1033 program. The proposed law defines “military-grade weapons” as “militarily equipped vehicles and aircraft, weapons and other objects designed to primarily have a military purpose or offensive capability, and ammunition.” Under the law, police would still be able to acquire items that are not weapons, such as generators and medical aid equipment through the 1033 program.
The legislation would only apply to the 1033 program and would leave the door open for police to acquire military gear through other surplus programs operated by the federal government, as well as federal programs that fund the acquisition of military equipment.
While the passage of HF43 would not completely end the militarization of local cops in Minnesota, it would take a significant first step and would prevent state and local police from participating in the biggest federal military surplus program.
Police departments often obtain military and surveillance equipment from the federal government in complete secrecy. Requiring public disclosure of all requests for military gear would bring the process into the open and provide an opportunity for concerned residents to stop the acquisition through their local representatives.
FEDERAL SURPLUS AND GRANT MONEY
Through the federal 1033 Program, local police departments procure military-grade weapons. Police can also get military equipment through the Department of Homeland Security via the (DHS) “Homeland Security Grant Program.” The DHS doles out over $1 billion in counterterrorism funds to state and local police each year. According to a 2012 Senate report, this money has been used to purchase tactical vehicles, drones, and even tanks with little obvious benefit to public safety. And, according to ProPublica, “In 1994, the Justice Department and the Pentagon-funded a five-year program to adapt military security and surveillance technology for local police departments that they would otherwise not be able to afford.”
In August 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that gave a push to local police militarization. Trump’s action rescinded an Obama-era policy meant to provide greater transparency and oversight around the Department of Defense 1033 program and other federal resources that provide military weapons to local police.
Passage of HF43 would end Minnesota’s participation in the 1033 program.
COMMAND AND CONTROL
Arming ‘peace officers’ like they’re ready to occupy an enemy city is totally contrary to the society envisioned by the founders. They’ve turned ‘protect and serve’ into ‘command and control.’
In the 1980s, the federal government began arming, funding and training local police forces, turning peace officers into soldiers to fight in its unconstitutional “War on Drugs.” The militarization went into hyper-drive after 9/11 when a second front opened up – the “War on Terror.”
By making it more difficult for local police to get this military-grade gear and surveillance technology, and ensuring they can’t do it in secret, it makes them less likely to cooperate with the feds and removes incentives for partnerships. Passage of HF43 would take a first step toward limiting police militarization in Minnesota.
HF43 was referred to the House Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division where it must pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.
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