UPRISING: With Militarization of Cops on Full Display, Senator Plans Amendment to End Transfer of Military Equipment to Local Police

Lawmakers and activists say access to military hardware has made police behavior toward protesters even more brutal and violent, Jake Johnson reports. 

Protest against police violence in Minneapolis, May 26, 2020, a day after city police officers arrested and then killed George Floyd. (Fibonacci Blue, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

With the militarization of local police forces on full display as heavily armed cops and armored vehicles patrol the streets and crack down on protests over the killing of George Floyd, Senator Brian Schatz on Sunday said he plans to introduce an amendment to end the federal program that permits the transfer of excess military equipment to police departments across the nation.

I will be introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to discontinue the program that transfers military weaponry to local police departments,” the Hawaii Democrat tweeted late Sunday.

Julián Castro, the former Housing Secretary, applauded Schatz’s proposal, warning that “as long as our police arm up like a combat force, they’ll act like it.”

President Donald Trump in 2017 rolled back Obama-era limits on the 1033 Program, which authorizes the Defense Department to send military equipment and weapons to local police departments. As NBC reported at the time, “Congress created the program in 1990 during the height of the war on drugs for federal and state law enforcement agencies, and it was expanded seven years later to include all law enforcement departments.”

“Since the program’s inception,” NBC noted, “more than $5.4 billion in equipment has flowed to police.”

The response by local law enforcement to the nationwide uprising that followed Floyd’s killing has heightened scrutiny of the 1033 Program, with lawmakers and activists warning that access to military hardware has made police behavior toward protesters even more brutal and violent.

“Militarizing local police forces doesn’t make our communities safer,” tweeted Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Philip McHarris, a PhD candidate in sociology and African American studies at Yale University, wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post last week that “police departments have come to resemble military units, contributing to deadly violence disproportionately against black Americans.”

“The cycle of police brutality sparking unrest, and that unrest being met by the militarized police is increasingly familiar in modern American society,” wrote McHarris. “Tough-on-crime policies and militarized police departments have paved the way for increased police contact and tragic violence. Reducing the capacity for police to engage in routine and militaristic violence is the only way to break recurring cycles of police killings and the militarized response that protests of them are often met with.”

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow him on Twitter: @johnsonjakep

This article is from Common Dreams.

Please Contribute to Consortium News’ 25th Anniversary Spring Fund Drive

Donate securely with PayPal here

Or securely by credit card or check by clicking the red button:



19 comments for “UPRISING: With Militarization of Cops on Full Display, Senator Plans Amendment to End Transfer of Military Equipment to Local Police

  1. June 3, 2020 at 09:01

    I fully agree to > banning < military contractors from supplying ANY forms of military hardware to police, but I guess that would limit corporate profits for the scum who design and build such instruments…

    The glorification of violent technology has been an ongoing Hollywood theme for at least 3 decades. Anyone remember Robo-Cop? There are hundreds of murders depicted in nearly every film that comes out of Hollywood, and it's no mystery why civilians have become zombies practicing learned behaviors…

    Civilians need to stand in front of court houses and demand justice in courts policies and procedures. Burning down their own homes and buisinesses is about as dysfunctional as it gets. There used to be an enforceable Constitution and Bill of Rights… It's the subversive nature of the American B.A.R. system and Federal courts that need serious examination and reform.

    • Joseph Tillotson
      June 3, 2020 at 17:20

      Many major U.S. cities including Minneapolis have sent members of their police departments to Israel for training in tactics designed to control the populations. Israel has conducted an oppressive and brutal military occupation of Palestine for almost eighty years with no end in sight. The tactics taught at these seminars are effective as the Israeli can accurately claim that their tactics are battle proven as their policies have not changed and still effectively subdue the unfortunate Palestinians.

  2. journey80
    June 2, 2020 at 13:59

    Obama spent eight years showering local police departments with surplus military vehicles, riot gear, weapons. Who brought in the IDF to train our cops to regard all civilians as the enemy, and protesters as fair game? It’s going to take more than a new law to retrain and reform police departments all over the country that have been corrupted and trained in brutality by the IDF.

  3. John Puma
    June 2, 2020 at 12:23

    All well and good but
    1) how does one legislate against a military mentality in a domestic setting
    2) most of the 1000 deaths per year by US police I suspect occur by standard
    hand gun and well-placed knee (after handcuffs)

    And “Brian Schatz on Sunday said he plans to introduce an amendment to end the federal program that permits the transfer of EXCESS (my emphasis) military equipment to police departments across the nation.”
    That leaves loophole big enough to drive through mass quantities of military equipment!!!

    • Consortiumnews.com
      June 2, 2020 at 12:40

      This is excise Pentagon equipment they don’t need anymore. The amendment would end the entire program, meaning local police would not receive any military equipment from the Pentagon. Period. You can have a military mentality but if you don’t have the hardware you can’t do as much damage.

    • John Puma
      June 2, 2020 at 16:37

      To Consortium

      I’ continue to maintain that the actions causing the mass demonstrations are individual, cold blooded murders
      done without military equipment. (Average about 1000/year, disproprtionately of blacks.)

      The military equipment is to suppress (i.e treat as “the enemy” Americans exercising their constitutional rights)
      demonstrations in protest of the above, individual, murders.

      There would be no, or a LOT less, damage the military equipment would have the opportunity to do if there were not first the racist murders.

  4. Truth first
    June 2, 2020 at 12:22

    Yeah, yeah, the USA is #1. What many Americans fail to realize is that the US is #1 in all the crappy ways. #1 killing millions of innocents overseas, #1 exporter of killing equipment, #1 with citizens in prisons, it is a long list.
    Until Yanks come to understand that this is not a great country but a great problem will they take the steps they must take to stop screwing up themselves and the entire planet!!

  5. Skip Scott
    June 2, 2020 at 09:04

    The MIC’s weapon manufacturers need to do something with the old stuff to be able to make room for the new stuff. Gotta keep the gravy train afloat with constant improvement and replacement of the weapons of war. So what they can’t sell off to foreign vassals, they give to the cops who use it to suppress the proles. I am waiting for the cops to get depleted uranium rounds to poison US soil with. It is only a matter of time.

    As for disciplining the cop that killed Floyd, I believe the other 3 cops who looked on should all share the same cell with him. It is the only way that this kind of behavior will finally end. All four need to be prosecuted and sent to prison for a good long time and placed within the general prison population. And the MSM needs to cover their trial.

    • Linda Furr
      June 2, 2020 at 12:45

      Yep. Welfare at its most efficient. The new NATO Investment Plan 1991 drawn up after the collapse of the Soviet Union included a number of interesting things, including the guarantee that US contractors would be a part of any bidding involving NATO project. You can google for this information. This Plan justifies a continuing NATO to protect “western values” (ie Capitalism).

      Be sure you read the last page, if nothing else.

  6. Tom Laney
    June 2, 2020 at 07:50

    We need jobs.

  7. Drew Hunkins
    June 2, 2020 at 01:01

    Legislation banning local cop shops from acquiring high powered military gear and equipment has been needed for at least the last 20 years. Many police departments these days resemble little more than paramilitary units with officers dressed up like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

    This is sort of comical. I remember many years ago reading a local story in which the cops busted a brothel. They actually deployed a S.W.A.T. team to raid this totally nonviolent bordello!

    Two books that are must reading in today’s current environment: Christian Parenti’s “Lockdown America” and Norm Stamper’s “Breaking Rank”.

  8. Veronica Roberts
    June 1, 2020 at 22:54

    A day late and a dollar short. Where were Brian Schatz, Julian Castro, and Pramila Jayapal when all this militarization of our police forces was taking place back in the day? I can remember being in a protest at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque in the early 2000s and we had our police on horseback dressed like storm stroopers confronting senior citizens, teachers, librarians and veterans who were peacefully expressing their anti-war sentiments. This has been going on for a good long time. It should have never been allowed. I can’t help thinking that this explosion of protest against inequality and injustice is what they were trying to instigate. How long does it take, 50-60 years or more, to realize that you can’t oppress people and deprive them of their human rights to decent jobs, housing, healthcare, and a healthy environment and not expect some kind of blow back? Congress, both sides, which is really one team against the 99% hasn’t done a damn thing to right this horrific injustice.

    • Jeff Harrison
      June 2, 2020 at 11:10

      I have two words for you. Kent State.

  9. GMCasey
    June 1, 2020 at 22:08


    —–IF AMERICA was truly a democratic republic—-we would have neighborhood beat cops. who knew the residents, and the neighborhood people knew them. That would be wonderful and a safer place to live for all too

    • geeyp
      June 1, 2020 at 23:28

      Agreed, GM Casey. Jesse Ventura, the former Governor of Minnesota where this time it all started, says that Police Departments need to continue their Police Academies for their proper training. This would go a long way to help slow down these unnecessary killings.

    • Mike Cosenza
      June 2, 2020 at 20:01

      Couldn’t agree more.

  10. Andrew Thomas
    June 1, 2020 at 21:59

    When the Democrats controlled the Senate, the House, and the White House during brief periods in the last 30 years, was any attempt made to stop this idiotic program? I don’t remember one, but it’s a question. If anyone knows the answer, I would sure like to know it.

  11. Jeff Harrison
    June 1, 2020 at 21:56

    I disagree. While I agree that we want to keep military weapons out of the hands of cops, the real problem is that on an individual responsibility level the -relatively- benign phrase “police brutality” has another name. It’s called assault. What happens today is that, instead of being treated like the crime that it is complete with jail time, it merely appears as a reprimand in the cop’s record. Throw these guys in jail! Make the response to their behavior commensurate with the suffering they’ve inflicted. For those of you who would want to say to me, as police unions have been successful in doing to date, that you can’t review and take a cop to task after the fact, I have two words. Sully Sullenberger. Captain Sullenberger had to make what was actually a split second decision. After two relight attempts failed does he try for the Teterboro airport or the east river? Once you’ve made a decision, it is irreversible. You won’t have enough speed or altitude to change your mind. But do you realize that the NTSB which reviews all aircraft accidents will study the physical evidence of the aircraft, interview control tower staff, cockpit recordings, and interviews with the pilots and crew themselves and then, a year of so later, they will release their findings. A finding of pilot error is the kiss of death for a pilot. And the NTSB could have found that ditching in the east river vice the Teterboro airport was a pilot error.

    • AnneR
      June 2, 2020 at 14:14

      Thank you Jeff. Yes, right on. The Po-Lice need, must be held *criminally* responsible for the really existing crimes they commit, responsible in *exactly* the same way as we non-Busies would be held were we to commit the same crime. This should be bleedingly obvious to them – THEY should not be ABOVE the law, which is, to all intents and purposes what they are and have been for decades.

      The Po-Lice exist simply – and have since their inception (initially here to catch runaway slaves and as “sheriffs and deputies” to ensure that real estate property remained in the “owners’ hands”) to protect the Property of the middle to aristo classes. No other reason.

Comments are closed.