Hey, #Ronation –
This week the Obama administration announced one step it is taking to address the fraught relationship between police and the policed nationwide – new Justice Department guidelines to curb racial profiling by federal law enforcement. It is the latest of a series of initiatives to that end, from new funding for body cameras to a federal task force. One step not taken – comprehensive action to roll back the use of surplus U.S. military equipment by local police.
Last week, the White House released a report on the Pentagon ‘1033’ program that granted local police the right to obtain that surplus U.S. military hardware for law enforcement purposes. The report uncovered 78,000 pieces of high-powered weapons and tactical vehicles that have been sent to local police in the last year – and nearly half a million pieces that have been transferred since Obama took office. But it is standing by the politically popular practice, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest arguing “there are certain situations in which these kinds of programs have been useful and contributed significantly to public safety,”
But looking back at a year of military-style police responses to protests – including in Ferguson, Missouri – there are strong bipartisan voices seeking more oversight over the heavy artillery and armored vehicles flowing into small towns around America.
Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia is one of those voices; he is proposing legislation, The Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act of 2014 (H.R. 5478), that will place more aggressive restrictions and transparency measures on this Department of Defense program.
It’s the subject of this week’s Call to Action – if you think there should be a limit on the type of equipment that could be transferred and that states track all equipment received, ask the House to pass H.R. 5478 with our online petition – and then share it on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #Ronation.
Throughout the week, we’ll share the results and your comments.