U.S. President Donald J. Trump has authorized police departments across the country to request surplus military equipment through the 1033 program in order to protect and serve their communities.
A typical example of the success from the program would be a MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle in Florida that local police use for recoveries during flood seasons.
While the 1033 program can supply local police forces with tough emergency equipment, the prospect of having our cops being able to defend themselves against today’s rioters and looters must have spooked those in the media who came out at the weekend with diatribes against the President for the program.
The 1033 program refers to a section of the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act that allows Police departments to obtain military grade equipment cheaply, only paying for the costs of shipping and maintaining the equipment.
Most of the equipment provided is in the form of firearms and specialty vehicles, helicopters and airplanes.
The program was first initiated under former President George W. Bush and continued under Barack Obama until the Ferguson riots fueled public criticism and forced the Obama administration to publicly announce that it would curb the program.
Under Executive Order 13688, Obama created “a federal interagency group to investigate police militarization and come up with recommendations. As a result of this investigation, police were prohibited from receiving certain equipment, including bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, firearms and ammunition of .50‐caliber or higher, grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms and weaponized aircraft,” according to an investigation by In These Times.
The EO served their purposes to make it appear that Obama was doing something, but there were really no teeth, as the weaponized elements were never really part of what the police departments were getting from the program.
Of all the aircraft given to local police through the 1033 program, none were weaponized, according to an NPR analysis last year of 10 years of DLA data. The investigation further revealed that nearly 87 percent of the hundreds of armored vehicles being used at the time by local police ran on wheels, not tracks, which were excluded under the Obama EO.
The ongoing transfer of armored vehicles, such as MRAPs, epitomizes these criticisms. Since the vehicles run on wheels, they aren’t on the new list of banned transfers. Nevertheless, their heft and design for use in warfare illustrates could be interpreted as the increasingly blurry line between police and military, critics say.
Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Social Justice Studies and one of the leading researchers of police militarization, told the Guardian that the new rules were nothing more than a “publicity stunt.”
According to the DLA, police departments have received 708 MRAPs through the 1033 program since 2011, mostly from unused or underused equipment from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As part of the Obama administration’s reforms, law enforcement agencies receiving “controlled” items, such as MRAPs, must demonstrate that they plan to train officers on proper use. But training materials used by various California police departments, obtained by the website MuckRock in June, show that instructional time for MRAPs ranges from 20 hours to as little as 15 minutes, which could also be an important issue.
This move has been met with much criticism from the left because, from their perspective, the protests are peaceful at the same time as many of the stories and actual eyewitness accounts tell a much different story. Indeed, in today’s Portland or Seattle, it would seem protecting our cops from the chaos is a priority.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) made a public statement on TV that the violent protests were a myth, seeming to indicate just how out of touch with reality his side really is.
In response to the denial or inability of the governors and mayors in the cities with the most violence, the 1033 program could now be seen as a necessity for the local law enforcement departments in order to adequately deal with the violence as it is increasing in intensity and tactics.
And in areas where police do not need to be so protected, the other side of the coin is that these vehicles can perform dual-use in emergencies, helping stranded citizens in natural disasters.
For example, in rural California, with a population of about 18,000 people, no major metropolitan areas, few sworn officers, and relatively low crime, the department received a second MRAP vehicle in 2017 and they plan to use it for flood rescues.