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Gabriel writes: "The Trump administration is preparing to broaden a controversial program to provide military equipment to local law enforcement agencies."

Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the 
shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 13, 2014 in Ferguson, 
Missouri, sparking days of unrest in the community. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Police stand watch as demonstrators protest the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 13, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking days of unrest in the community. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

White House to Scrap All Limits on the Pentagon's Police Militarization Program

By Elliott Gabriel, teleSUR

28 August 17

High-calibre machine guns, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles and "weaponized aircraft" from the U.S. military will soon be available to local police.

he Trump administration is preparing to broaden a controversial program to provide military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. This would reverse limited Obama-era reforms to the program, made in response to widespread outrage over the use of such equipment against anti-police-brutality protesters in Ferguson and elsewhere, as well as in the course of routine policing.

The plan to revive the high-grade weapons-sharing component of the Department of Defense Excess Property Program ,or 1033 Program, may be unveiled as soon as Monday when Attorney General Jeff Sessions will address an annual meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police or FOP.

The FOP, which bills itself as the largest law enforcement union in the world, endorsed Donald Trump during his presidential campaign last year. Trump had promised to scrap existing limitations on 1033, which he described as “an excellent program that enhances community safety.”

According to an administration summary obtained by USA Today, which had been circulated to some police groups, the move would overturn a 2015 executive order that modestly limited the transfer of military equipment to police agencies, reviving "the full scope of a longstanding program for recycling surplus, lifesaving gear from the Department of Defense, along with restoring the full scope of grants used to purchase this type of equipment from other sources.”

"Assets that would otherwise be scrapped can be re-purposed to help state, local and tribal law enforcement better protect public safety and reduce crime," the summary added.

Created in 1990 and expanded in 1997, the 1033 Program is administered by the Pentagon's Defense Logistics Agency through its Law Enforcement Support Office, whose motto is “from warfighter to crimefighter.”

The program has provided US$6 billion in equipment and arms to over 8,600 federal, local and state police agencies in all 50 U.S. states and occupied U.S. territories. Government entities including park districts, the U.S. Forest Service and junior college police were able to order the equipment through an online catalog-style mail-order website.

"Much of the equipment provided through the 1033 program is entirely defensive in nature ... that protect officers in active shooter scenarios and other dangerous situations," the Trump administration's summary claimed.

Supplies distributed ranged from office equipment, clothing and first aid kits to machine guns, bayonets, night vision devices, rifle scopes, helicopters and planes, military drones, shock cuffs, long range acoustic devices or LRADs, surveillance equipment, 107-millimeter mortar-carrying tanks, explosive ordnance disposal robots and mine-resistant ambush protected or MRAP vehicles.

Around 500 MRAPs were distributed through 1033 to police departments, including small communities and the Ohio State University Campus Police. According to government reports, local police departments in almost every state have more MRAPs than their states' respective National Guard units.

Police departments at universities and junior colleges across the U.S. also procured tactical gear, repurposed grenade launchers, M-16 assault rifles and less-lethal munitions through the program.

Despite claims that the federal program was meant to release “excess” military equipment, a 2014 report by the Senate found that over a third of material supplied to local government agencies had either never been used by the U.S. Armed Forces or was in brand-new condition.

Police watchdogs, social movements and legal advocates have argued that the program lacks transparency and encourages police to use heavy-handed paramilitary techniques in the course of everyday policing tasks such as the execution of search warrants or probation checks.

Studies have shown that such tactics disproportionately impact poor communities and people of color, widening racial disparities and traumatizing entire neighborhoods, creating the impression of an occupation force where punitive zero-tolerance policing is augmented by battlefield arms.

“Using these federal funds, state and local law enforcement agencies have amassed military arsenals purportedly to wage the failed War on Drugs, the battlegrounds of which have disproportionately been in communities of color,” the ACLU said in a 2014 report titled War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing. “But these arsenals are by no means free of cost for communities. Instead, the use of hyperaggressive tools and tactics results in tragedy for civilians and police officers, escalates the risk of needless violence, destroys property, and undermines individual liberties.”

Criticism of the program came to a head following several violent crowd suppression responses to anti-police-brutality protests in cities across the U.S. In cities from Anaheim, California, to Ferguson, Missouri, journalists and community members captured striking images of police wearing camouflage military garb while deploying high-powered rifles atop armored vehicles.

The program has also been seen as lacking public discussion and enjoying virtually no oversight, opening the door to slipshod bookkeeping, governmental confusion and vanishing 1033 equipment that finds its way onto the black market.

Under former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office amassed a significant arsenal of military weaponry from the 1033 Program including a Humvee, 90 M-16 rifles, a tank, 116 .45-caliber pistols, 34 M-14 rifles and three helicopters. Arpaio's office was suspended from the program in 2014 after it was discovered that 20 to 22 of the weapons went missing, often because retired or current deputies took the weapons home and never returned them.

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office in Arizona was also discovered to have auctioned off millions of dollars' worth of 1033 equipment to non-law enforcement agencies for the sole purpose of raising revenue.

In 2014 it was discovered that 184 agencies were suspended from the program due to hundreds of weapons going missing or a failure to comply with guidelines. While small arms such as rifles and handguns were the most common weapons to vanish, 2 Humvees had also gone missing.

While former President Barack Obama has been credited with imposing oversight on the program and limiting the distribution of military hardware to local agencies, his move was widely criticized as being of a symbolic nature. The vast majority of equipment 1033 had provided remained available following his 2015 executive order, and much of the banned equipment such as weaponized aircraft, tracked vehicles and .50 caliber heavy machine guns had never been made available to agencies.

In July, the Government Accountability Office tested the 1033 Program through a sting operation tasked with discovering the potential for fraud and abuse. After creating a “fictitious federal agency” that claimed it performed high-level security and counter-terror work, the GAO managed to secure over US$1.2 million worth of night vision goggles, pipe-bomb and rifle equipment within a week.

“They never did any verification, like visit our ‘location,’ and most of it was by email,” said Zina Merritt, the director of the GAO operation. “It was like getting stuff off of eBay.” your social media marketing partner
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