Our communities are looking more like war zones every day, thanks to the Pentagon’s 1033 program that authorizes transfers of surplus military equipment from the Department of Defense to domestic law enforcement agencies free of charge. Buncombe County has received at least 74 military articles through the 1033 program, including assault rifles and an armored vehicle. We do not need these weapons of war in our neighborhoods.
Public safety arguments supporting the 1033 program are contradicted by research findings. Recent research from Princeton University demonstrates that law enforcement’s use of military armaments does not reduce crime rates nor protect officers in the line of duty. Moreover, this study found that militarized police units create negative public perceptions of police that may hinder citizens’ cooperation with law enforcement, disrupting criminal investigations and crime reduction.
Another study found a correlation between military equipment requests and an increase in violent community-police interactions. Finally, a Government Accountability Office report found that 1033 equipment is routinely handed over to law enforcement agencies with no verification or accountability measures. The director of this project reported that requesting 1033 equipment is almost like ordering controlled military equipment from eBay.
As a Quaker and a social work student, I am dedicated to peace and community well-being. This is why I urge Rep. [Patrick] McHenry, Sen. [Richard] Burr and Sen. [Thom] Tillis to improve community-police relations and public safety by supporting the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 1556/S. 1856). This legislation would establish necessary limits and oversight measures for the 1033 program and begin to address one of many systemic issues with policing.
— Bobby Trice