A group of House Democrats have joined together to introduce a bill Thursday that would end the program that lets the military send its excess equipment to local police departments, a bill that is supported by over 150 outside groups, The Hill reported.
Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., sponsored the bill, along with 17 co-sponsors, to end the 1033 program, which allows the Pentagon to transfer military-grade equipment, including weapons, to local police departments across the country.
"The 1033 program has contributed to a military-style police culture and has endangered countless lives, particularly in communities of color," the various organizations wrote in a letter to legislators, which was obtained by The Hill. "It is our assessment that the 1033 program is irreparable and should be abolished, especially in light of the fact that past attempts to reform the program were ineffective."
Human rights attorney Yasmine Taeb, the progressive strategist behind the letter, added, "Demilitarizing the police is a crucial step toward the broader goals of ending institutional racism and stopping police brutality. Militarized policing supported by weapons of war has terrorized our communities, and in particular, our communities of color. We join millions of Americans across the country calling on Congress to shut down the 1033 program once and for all."
The bill and letter come about a month after more than two dozen House Democrats called on President Joe Biden to issue an executive order to restrict the 1033 program, and about two months after legislators submitted a bill that would limit it. The wide-ranging police reform bill that the House passed earlier this year included limits on the program, but that legislation may struggle to find the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate as bipartisan negotiations have stalled.
The organizers claim in their letter that the program has "caused immeasurable harm in communities across America" and also "contributed to the rise of the warrior cop mentality against Black and Brown communities."
It notes police departments utilized at least 17 vehicles designed to be mine-resistant and protected against ambushes in response to protests over the murder of George Floyd. The letter also accuses the program of having been "notoriously mismanaged through the years," noting a report from the Government Accountability Office in 2017 found the organization was able to get $1.2 million in military equipment for a police department that did not exist.
"For more than 20 years, the 1033 Program has sustained and promoted a military-like culture in U.S. law enforcement, the brunt of which has been felt in communities of color," said Maritza Perez, director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs, one of the groups that supported the letter. "We know that the increased transfer of military equipment through the 1033 Program increases the number of police killings, particularly in the context of the drug war and SWAT raids, and that the program has been grossly mismanaged over the years. To truly achieve public safety and save lives, Congress must abolish 1033."
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