Senate rejects strict limits on military equipment to civilian police

The Senate is then expected to vote on an alternative proposal put forward by Armed Services President Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) That would impose softer restrictions on the transfer of equipment.

The Pentagon’s program to transfer its surplus equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies, known as the 1033 program, has come under new criticism for militarizing local police amid a crackdown on protests that followed the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In the midst of the commotion, Schatz tweeted on May 31 that he would attempt to halt the transfer of military weapons to local police in the Defense Policy Bill.

“There is simply no reason for local police departments to be outfitted as if they are about to take Raqqa,” Schatz told POLITICO in a pre-vote interview, referring to a town of Syria.

“They literally get the DoD stuff from Afghanistan and Iraq, so it’s not a rhetorical fantasy to say they’re outfitted like they’re going to take a foreign city. They literally are – and untrained. “, Schatz added. “It does nothing to ensure the safety of our communities and it obviously causes distress and mistrust between police services and communities.”

The amendment would have prohibited the transfer of certain offensive equipment to law enforcement agencies, including tear gas, grenades and grenade launchers, bayonets, firearms and armor-piercing ammunition, armed drones and combat vehicles. tracked. It would also require the Pentagon to take back the equipment if it is found to be used against protesters in violation of their First Amendment rights, and would require certain certifications and reports on equipment transfers.

The pair of Senate votes are probably Democrats’ only chance to tackle the military equipment program in the $ 741 billion defense bill. The Democratic-controlled House is expected to pass its version of the NDAA on Tuesday, but House leaders have decided not to grant votes on amendments to curtail the 1033 program.

As Tuesday’s vote approached, several dozen advocacy groups from all political backgrounds endorsed the measure, including the NAACP, the American Bar Association, FreedomWorks and the American Conservative Union.

Republicans, meanwhile, argued that the program has proven to be good value for taxpayers and said the proposal would leave local police departments underfunded and create a more cumbersome process for law enforcement agencies. order to obtain surplus equipment.

The Senate will then vote on an Inhofe counter-proposal to impose additional conditions and limits on the transfer of military equipment. This measure also requires 60 votes.

Inhofe’s amendment would make de-escalation training mandatory for law enforcement agencies that receive military materiel. It would also prohibit law enforcement from obtaining bayonets, grenades, armed tracked combat vehicles and armed drones under the program.

“We’re talking about adding some extra precautions,” Inhofe said. “This program is an efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

“For years local law enforcement has been asked to do more with less, and now they are facing the liberal cause of funding the police,” he said. “We must continue this transparent and responsive program.”

Yet the GOP-backed proposal falls short of the restrictions many Democrats have been calling for.

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