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By Elias Atienza
Libertarian Republican Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) joined twenty other representatives in an effort to demilitarize the police. The bill, titled “Stop Militarizing Police Act” would restrict transfers of equipment from the Department of Defense to local law enforcement agencies.
According to the bill, local law enforcement agencies were able to get MRAPs and military-grade weapons from the Department of Defense, in addition to “computers, helicopters, clothing, and other products, at no charge during fiscal year 2011 alone.” The total worth of the equipment was $500 million in 2011 and more than $4 billion worth has been transferred to these agencies.
Often this equipment is requested for counter-terrorism, the war on drugs, and other instances. The Ferguson riots and protests were met with armored vehicles and police armed as if they were in the middle of Baghdad instead of an American suburb. The Obama administration stopped transferring certain military-grade equipment after the start of the Black Lives Matter protests, but there have been arguments that he had not gone far enough.
The bill would restrict law enforcement agencies from getting these materials and would instruct the Secretary of Defense to not transfer “controlled vehicles, highly mobile multi-wheeled vehicles, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, trucks, truck dump, truck utility, and truck carryall, along with “Drones that are armored, weaponized, or both.” Added to the list is silencers, firearms, grenades, explosives, and items in the “Federal Supply Class of banned items.”
The bill was introduced on March 16th and currently has 21 sponsors, both Democratic and Republicans. It is uncertain if it would pass Congress considering their predecessors were never brought up for a vote or if President Trump would sign it if it was on his desk. Trump has pledged to back the return of military-grade equipment to police forces and the National Fraternal Order of Police Officers want him to rescind Obama’s executive order on the restrictions.