House Democrats Introduce Bill to Limit Transfer of Military-Grade Gear to Police

Amid the national debate about the militarization of law enforcement, House Democrats have introduced a bill to limit the transfer of military-grade gear to police officers.

The bill is sponsored by Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and  “goes after the items that destroy trust and endanger communities while allowing support equipment transfers to continue,” according to a summary shared with The Hill. It is co-sponsored by 74 other House Democrats.

“Our neighborhoods need to be protected, but Americans and our founding fathers opposed blurring the line between police and the military,” Johnson said in a statement. “Before another town is transformed into a warzone with gifts of grenade launchers and high-caliber rifles, we must rein in this program and revisit our view of the  safety of American cities and towns.”

According to Yasmine Taeb, a human rights lawyer who is supporting the bill, says House Democrats will be sending a letter to President Joe Biden by the end of the week calling on him to issue an executive order to “end the transfer of military-grade weaponry through the Pentagon’s 1033 program onto the streets of our communities.”

 The 1033 program allows the Department of Defense to unload excess equipment by sending it to local law enforcement, who are responsible for shipping costs. The program was created as part of 1997’s National Defense Authorization Act. The 1208 program, which began in 1990, was more restrictive. The program has come under increased scrutiny amid Black Lives Matter protests and the nationwide movement against racism and police brutality.

Last week, the House approved the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a bill named after the African American man whose death at the hands of law enforcement last year intensified protests nationwide and catapulted Black Lives Matter to the global stage. The bill, in part, makes it easier to pursue claims of police misconduct.