Our police officers are not our military. Yet military weapons meant for battlefields like the ones I served on as an Army Officer in the Gulf War are being transferred to local police departments around the country. Put simply, these weapons are not intended for local policing and often result in escalating - not solving - situations. We’re seeing this right now in Ferguson, Missouri.
Many of the weapons being sent to small police departments are coming directly from the Pentagon through the 1033 Weapons Transfer Program. Since its creation, at least $4 billion worth of equipment has been distributed to local police departments through this program.
Thankfully, the Senate Armed Services Committee is reviewing the Weapons Transfer Program to evaluate how these weapons are being used. However, there’s no reason to continue sending weapons through the program while it's under review. So I’m calling on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to temporarily suspend the 1033 Weapons Transfer Program - something he has the power to do.
When local police departments have access to armored personnel carriers, mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, M-4 rifles, camouflage uniforms and assault rifles - we’re clearly seeing the militarization of local law enforcement. But police officers are not at war with American citizens - they are here to serve and protect us. But it only makes sense that if we arm them like soldiers going into battle, they will act like soldiers.
As a veteran and executive director of Veterans For Peace, I don't want to see our police militarized here at home. And I know many other troops and veterans agree.
The program has been suspended before in 2012, when some states actually lost track of military equipment. You read that correctly, these battlefield weapons have actually gone missing before. Yet the program was quietly restarted in 2013. It’s clearly time for a moratorium on the 1033 program while it is under review.
The gross militarization of the police as seen in Ferguson MO clearly shows that a review of the 1033 Weapons Transfer Program is immediately needed. The police are not the nation's military and do not need to be equipped like an army. The program was already once suspended in 2012 because some states lost track of equipment. Unfortunately it was quietly restarted in 2013. That was a big mistake. We call on you to suspend the program until the Senate Armed Services Committee has completed its review.