End the War on Drugs

Yesterday the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on Oversight of Federal Programs for Equipping State and Local Law Enforcement under the Department of Defense Excess Property Program, known since the shooting in Ferguson Missouri of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown as the 1033 Program

The 1033 Program has gotten the most attention, but it is hardly the only grant program available (NYT) to local police agencies that distributes either equipment directly or funds that can be used to buy equipment.

A list of grants available by agency is listed here by DOJ’s NIJ

Other grant programs include 1033, 1122, Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), State Homeland Security Program (SHSP), Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program

Website for Grants.gov has grants by agency and category, including DHS, DOJ and Law, Justice and Legal Services including grants like COPS-CAMP-APPLICATION-2014 from May for help to

engage in or to supervise anti-methamphetamine investigative activities

1122 Program Catalog of available equipment

Description of the 1122 program (paragraph edited by me)

Three sources of supply are available to law enforcement agencies through their SPOCs. The first two are the Department of the Army (DA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).

The third source is contractor-supplied items. These items are furnished through the General Services Administration (GSA) and the sources can be found in the various Federal Supply Schedules published by GSA. These schedules are listings of contractors, identifying the types of products they provide to GSA. There is a Federal Supply Schedule for “Law Enforcement & Security Equipment,” for example, that gives the names and addresses of suppliers of police equipment belts, holsters, batons, handcuffs and pepper spray; accessories for police cruisers; alcohol detection kits; bomb disposal and detection equipment; and forensic and criminal investigation equipment. GSA also will purchase motor vehicles for law enforcement agencies under this program. For more information please visit http://www.gsa.gov/firesecurity.

There are 82 DHS grants listed on its website.

Investigative journalist Jason Leopold was able to get information through FOIA on the 1033 information from Ferguson and St Louis Police Departments.  In his article he noted the lack of evidence of distributions of the kinds of tactical equipment that was seen on the streets in Ferguson.

VICE News obtained the complete inventory of military leftovers secured since 2007 by the Ferguson Police Department under the DLA’s 1033 program – and nothing on the list matched up with the militarized equipment police deployed during the protests.

continued

Even though Ferguson police did not obtain any weapons under 1033, the program – its maxim is “From Warfighter to Crimefighter” – does supply US law enforcement agencies with M-14s, M-16s, M1911 .45 caliber pistols, grenade launchers (see DLA’s weapons inventory PowerPoint below) and armored vehicles.

continued

The obvious question: Where did Ferguson police get the military equipment it allegedly used during the protests, and how did the department purchase it? When VICE News posed the question to the Ferguson Police Department, an officer hung up the phone on us. Three subsequent calls back resulted in the same response.

From the August 27 article update 

The fact that the St. Louis County Police Department did not obtain tactical gear under 1033 is not to suggest that it doesn’t have it. The department may have purchased military vehicles and weapons on its own or with grant money it secured from another federal program.

This is not a new problem.  While I was looking for Jason’s article about 1033 I found this tweet mentioning this article from 2011 discussing the 1033 program, which was started in 1997 to help police agencies deal with the war on drugs.

The U.S. military has some of the most advanced killing equipment in the world that allows it to invade almost wherever it likes at will.

We produce so much military equipment that inventories of military robots, M-16 assault rifles, helicopters, armored vehicles, and grenade launchers eventually start to pile up and it turns out a lot of these weapons are going straight to American police forces to be used against US citizens.

Benjamin Carlson at The Daily reports on a little known endeavor called the “1033 Program” that gave more than $500 million of military gear to U.S. police forces in 2011 alone.

Back then the issue was the response to Occupy Wall Street

This upswing coincides with an increasingly military-like style of law enforcement most recently seen in the Occupy Wall Street crackdowns.

Along with Jason’s work, the crowdsourcing FOIA website MuckRock also has documents that cover half of the states’ 1033 programs.

Program 1033 aircraft, armored vehicle and weapons requests article
Requested by ShawnMusgrave on Oct. 7, 2013 for the Defense Logistics Agency, Disposition Services of United States of America and fulfilled on Dec. 9, 2013

Documents
DRMS-14-MFOI-00004

Any mention of Rifleman Sets refer to vests not weapons as far as I can tell–see here

Here is the New York Time’s data set as described here

Last December, the Defense Logistics Agency released two years of state-by-state transfer data to MuckRock, while the New York Times obtained data down to the county level in May. 

The request filed for data from 1033 transfers nationwide 2000 to 2014 still is due in 4 days time so it is not late yet.  Many FOIA requests are held up for various reasons.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has on her website an article/press release as well as her own fact sheet on 1033 Equipment transfers

This is not the first time that the militarization of the police has gotten widespread media attention, the last time being after the Boston Marathon Bombing last year, when Boston Police locked down Boston and several suburbs looking for the suspects.

Wikipedia

April 19, Governor Patrick asked residents of Watertown and adjacent cities and towns (Allston-Brighton, Boston, Belmont, Brookline, Cambridge, Newton, and Waltham) to “shelter in place”. Somerville residents also received a reverse-911 call with orders to shelter in place. 

“Was Boston Actually on Lockdown?”

Throughout the day, the media described residents complying with a “lockdown order,” but in reality the governor’s security measure was a request.

The lockdown is really voluntary, to be honest with you,” says Scott Silliman, emeritus director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke Law School.

The “shelter in place” request is legally different from a state of emergency, which Patrick declared earlier this year as winter storm Nemo descended on the Bay State. Patrick imposed a travel ban, threatening a penalty of up to a year in prison and a large fine if people were found on the roads.

See also here

The thousands of heavily armed law enforcement officers and scores of military-style tactical vehicles amassed around Boston Friday might have looked chaotic to many watching the hunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev unfold on television. But the man who heads the LAPD’s counter terrorism and special operations bureau says the city-wide lockdown makes perfect sense.

Maria Haberfeld, a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College of Justice in New York City said “I think the display of police power is more to calm the public than out of operational necessity.”

Over the past decade, local and federal police agencies have been training to deal with situations involving terrorists, amassing weapons of war – such as the tank-like tactical vehicles currently rolling through the streets of Boston – and preparing to work together should the situation arise. This week, it did.

According to Haberfeld, the massive show of force in Boston represents the first major field test of the interagency task forces created in the wake of the September 2001 attacks. Currently on the scene in Boston are officers and vehicles belonging to the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Guard. The Boston and Watertown Police departments, as well as the Massachusetts State Police, are also involved. Additionally, the FAA has instituted flight restrictions in the area and Amtrak service has been suspended.

The militarization of police forces in response to the drug wars and terrorism since 9/11 ignores a much more dangerous threat to our society—everyday gun deaths and ironically an increasing threat from militarized police forces (see the ACLU report which counts 124 violent SWAT raids every day) and this great article from after the Marathon Bombings last year.

Why does America lose its head over ‘terror’ but ignore its daily gun deaths?: The marathon bombs triggered a reaction that is at odds with last week’s inertia over arms control

Londoners, who endured IRA terror for years, might be forgiven for thinking that America over-reacted just a tad to the goings-on in Boston. They’re right – and then some. What we saw was a collective freak-out like few that we’ve seen previously in the United States. It was yet another depressing reminder that more than 11 years after 9/11 Americans still allow themselves to be easily and willingly cowed by the “threat” of terrorism.

After all, it’s not as if this is the first time that homicidal killers have been on the loose in a major American city. In 2002, Washington DC was terrorised by two roving snipers, who randomly shot and killed 10 people. In February, a disgruntled police officer, Christopher Dorner, murdered four people over several days in Los Angeles. In neither case was LA or DC put on lockdown mode, perhaps because neither of these sprees was branded with that magically evocative and seemingly terrifying word for Americans, terrorism.

If only Americans reacted the same way to the actual threats that exist in their country.

All of this would be almost darkly comic if not for the fact that more Americans will die needlessly as a result. Already, more than 30,000 Americans die in gun violence every year (compared to the 17 who died last year in terrorist attacks).

The same day of the marathon bombing in Boston, 11 Americans were murdered by guns.

It’s not just firearms that produce such legislative inaction. Last week, a fertiliser plant in West, Texas, which hasn’t been inspected by federal regulators since 1985, exploded, killing 14 people and injuring countless others. Yet many Republicans want to cut further the funding for the agency (OSHA) that is responsible for such reviews. The vast majority of Americans die from one of four ailments – cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease – and yet Republicans have held three dozen votes to repeal Obamacare, which expands healthcare coverage to 30 million Americans.



THE WAR ON DRUGS

While the War on Terror may be the reasons given for the increased militarization of the police since 9/11, the real reason the program was started in 1997 was the war on drugs, as discussed in the hearing yesterday.

According to Missouri state statistics drugs (defined as “distribute/deliver/manufacture controlled substance”) are one of the top 3 offenses besides robbery and burglary.

See for example Senator Ron Johnson’s exchange with Alan F. Estevez, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics at DOD
here from The Guardian’s live blog of the hearing

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, is up.

He asks what cops needed from the Pentagon to combat the war on drugs.
Estevez says “police departments were outgunned by drug gangs.”
But the “surplus” program continued to expand, Johnson says, moving $5.1bn in equipment since 1997.

Senator Rand Paul also made the connection between the militarized response we saw in Ferguson and the War on Drugs, quoted here from Kevin Gosztola’s The Dissenter

 Paul was one of the few senators to connect what was witnessed in Ferguson to the War on Drugs. He expressed concern about SWAT teams engaged in no-knock raids and, in particular, a raid in Georgia where a baby was critically injured when he was hit by a flash bang grenade that landed in his crib.

Both Paul and McCaskill spoke rather openly about the risk police militarization posed to dissent. Paul declared, “Confronting protesters with armored personnel carriers is thoroughly un-American.”

Militarized policing tactics are not consistent with the peaceful exercise of First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. These lawful peaceful protesters on that Wednesday afternoon in Ferguson, Missouri, did not deserve to be treated like enemy combatants,” McCaskill stated when the hearing began.

I referred in a blog post earlier to the ACLU report on violent SWAT raids, the majority which are drug raids.  We must end the War on Drugs.  We must demilitarize the police.  We must stop police shootings and gun violence that plagues our nation every day.

Another ACLU report from last June documented the failures of the war on drugs comparing marijuana use by whites and blacks (basically the same) compared with arrests of whites and blacks (blacks were arrested 4 times as much–see also stop and frisk)

End the war on drugs now.  It’s been 40 unsuccessful years.

#HandsUp

#Don’tShoot

#RIPMikeBrown

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