Fri 4/13 – Yes on AB 3131: Police Demilitarization and Accountability

FERGUSON, MO – AUGUST 18: Frederick Scott protests the killing of teenager Michael Brown on August 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer on August 9. 

“Having military style weaponry moving down the main street of a middle-American town is as un-American as a coup d’état rather than an election.”
Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) on police response to protests in Ferguson, MO, 2014

2 trucks

FERGUSON, MO 

There is a national crisis of police violence against people of color in this country. Black men are killed by the police at a rate that is nearly three times higher than that of white men. In 2017, 35% of the unarmed people killed by police in 2017 were black, even though black people make up only 13% of the population and 99% of these cases have resulted in the officer’s acquittal. Since 1997, police and sheriff departments have received weaponry for war from the Pentagon through the 1033 program, including mine-resistant wheeled tanks and more than 6,000 military rifles. Studies show that the more militarized a law enforcement agency becomes, the higher the number of civilians killed each year. Arming police forces with this kind of equipment will inevitably result in it being used against people of color in our communities.

“Militarization makes every problem — even a car of teenagers driving away from a party — look like a nail that should be hit with an AR-15 hammer.” (wapo)

Action: The ACLU of California, Indivisible CA: StateStrong, and the American Friends Service Committee, have teamed up to co-sponsor AB3131. This bill directly resists the Trump administration’s attempt to militarize local police forces while creating significant police oversight which will help to protect our communities, especially people of color and immigrants, in California. This bill is currently in the Assembly. We expect both our asemblymembers and state senators to support this bill. Make this call.

AB3131 would:

  • Require all law enforcement agencies to receive approval from their governing bodies in an open public hearing before requesting military equipment or seeking funds for military equipment.
  • Require reporting by the requesting agency for each piece of military equipment (usage policy, impact statement, proposal for use, annual report on use).

Minimum Script for assemblymembers: I’m calling from [zip code] to ask Assemblymember [___]  to support AB3131. This bill will be coming up for a vote before the Assembly Local Government Committee on April 18 and we want [___] to contact the committee members beforehand and ask them to support the bill.

Minimum Script for state senators: I’m calling from [___] and I want Senator [___] to support AB3131.

Contacts:
State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (SD-19):
SAC (916) 651-4019, SB (805) 965-0862, OX (805)988-1940 email
State Assemblymember Monique Limón:(CA-37): SAC (916) 319-2037, SB (805) 564-1649, VTA (805) 641-3700 email
Not your people?:findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.

Deeper Dive 

The history of how we got here.

In 1944, the Surplus Property Act provided for the disposal of surplus government property. It went through various iterations until that type of program was abolished in 1949.

Between 1990-2014, military hardware was transferred to police departments to fight the “War on Drugs“. Although the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) offered tactical armored vehicles, weapons, including grenade launchers, watercraft, and aircraft, most requests for material came from small to mid-sized police departments who are unable to afford extra clothing, vehicles and weapons, vests, night-vision devices, radios, utility trucks and first-aid equipment. Police forces must either utilize the military equipment within one year or return it.  The rules allow police to dispose of or sell some goods after at least one year of usage.

Because of the public reaction to the war-like police response to the Ferguson MO riots, President Obama issued an executive order to limit the acquisition of military equipment such as grenade launchers, weaponized vehicles, bayonets, rifles, ammunition of .50 caliber or higher, and certain armored vehicles that resemble tanks to state and local police. Under President Trump, this items are now readily available again.

However, states have the power to limit the militarization of local police departments. Both New Jersey and Montana implemented restrictions and public transparency into the acquisition of weapons in 2015 and now, with the revocation of Obama’s executive order, it is time for California to follow suit to protect their communities.

School Districts 

“It is frankly difficult to imagine how a grenade launcher, or any of these items, could be safely used in any scenario involving schools.”
– A letter from the NAACP

The Defense Department program, credited with helping to militarize local police departments, has also facilitated the transfer of hundreds of pieces of equipment and weapons to school, college and university police.

By September 2014, more than twenty school districts received military-grade equipment through the program. KHOU in Houston reported that ten Texas school districts had received military firearms from the 1033 program, acquiring 25 automatic pistols, 64 M16 assault rifles, 18 M14 assault rifles, 15 vehicles and tactical vests. KPBS in San Diego reported that their city’s school district had received a mine-resistant vehicle. However, this was returned after negative public reaction.

mrap-ambulance_wide-54bf7231fc1cc86cb1def00ac37882d44e3405f4_t800-1

PHOTO BY SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

The Los Angeles School Police Department received excess military equipment, including 61 assault rifles, three grenade launchers, and an MRAP vehicle.

Local Police Departments

Look up here the list of equipment received in this program by the law enforcement agency of your choice.

Ventura Co. Sheriff: (VCStar) Ventura County has been involved in the 1033 program since 1993. Over the years, the Sheriff’s Office has received more than 200 M-16 or M-14 rifles, night vision goggles and snowshoes. According to the list compiled by the Defense Logistics Agency, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office has receive four forward-looking infrared imaging systems in spring 2010 valued at $689,078 apiece. In June, 2017, the agency obtained two remote-controlled robotic vehicles, valued at $77,000 each, that were not affected by the ban.

Capt. Garo Kuredjian, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said that in the past, the agency obtained water bladder tanks and tractor-trailers that could be used for natural disaster response. Since the list began being compiled in September 1996, local law enforcement agencies have obtained more than $21.9 million in equipment from the program, according to the Defense Logistics Agency.

Santa Paula: (VCStar) Santa Paula Police Chief Steven McLean said his department’s largest acquisition was an MRAP, an armored vehicle worth $658,000 on Sept. 16, 2013. McLean said the BearCat has been used for two operations, one of which included a barricaded suspect. McLean has the final authority to deploy the vehicle, although during a scenario involving an active shooter or another emergency, a police watch commander could make the decision to roll out the armored vehicle if he is not available, McLean said.

Simi: Simi Valley Police Chief David Livingstone said Trump’s recent executive order would not affect Simi Valley police because equipment such as tanks or heavily armored vehicles is not usually needed for the types of calls local officers respond to.
Port Hueneme: Port Hueneme Police Chief Andrew Salinas also said his department does not plan to obtain heavy equipment.

Oxnard: 
Oxnard Police Chief Scott Whitney said his department occasionally acquires rifles from the program. Sometimes the rifles are older models and are only used for spare parts, Whitney said. “It is practical because if there is equipment available at no cost that could help you with your operation and maintain public safety, you should take advantage of it,” Whitney said. “There is a big misconception because some say this is militarization of police, but there is a clear distinction. We never got any equipment that we consider heavy military equipment or higher calibers. There are limits on the type of equipment we want our officers to use and also the manner in which we use them. We are definitely sensitive to that.”

Resources

Fatal Encounters – impartial, comprehensive, and searchable national database of people killed during interactions with law enforcement.

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