<p>Contact: Michael Collins (404) 539-6437 or Tony Newman (646) 335-5384</p>
Earlier today, Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Raul Labrador (R-ID) introduced legislation to reform the Pentagon program, which transfers military equipment to law enforcement. The program has come under increased scrutiny from lawmakers after images from Ferguson, Missouri, showed law enforcement dressed like combat soldiers, using military equipment to deal with protestors. The Pentagon program has its roots in the drug war, coming to fruition in the early 90s as the U.S. government militarized its approach to drug policy. Just last week, Senators held a hearing on the issue of militarization in our law enforcement, where they critical of the Pentagon program.
Johnson and Labrador’s bill, the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act has already received support from numerous legislators on both sides of the aisle. This rare bipartisan moment is a recognition that the increased militarization of law enforcement has to stop.
“In light of what we all saw in Ferguson, Missouri, the American people are clamoring for law enforcement to become less militarized. Grenades, drones, and tanks may belong on the battlefield; they certainly don’t have a place on U.S. streets,” said Michael Collins, Policy Manager at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Such militarization is inextricably linked to the drug war, where swat teams and no-knock raids have become a routine part of drug arrests, even in the case of nonviolent offenders.”
The bill tackles the militarization of law enforcement in the following ways:
The huge problem of police militarization has received increased attention because of the events in Ferguson, but many have been sounding the alarm for years. Journalist Radley Balko has noted the nexus between the drug war and police militarization in his writing, while the ACLU’s June 2014 report on this issue noted that from 2011-2012, 62% of swat teams were deployed for for drug searches.
“This legislation is a thoughtful attempt at tackling a very worrying problem – the militarization of law enforcement,” Collins continued. “The Pentagon program is highly problematic because preferential treatment is given to those police forces that use their equipment to fight the drug war. This bill would end that, and move us away from a heavy-handed approach to drug policy,” stated Collins.