The Strive for the Militarization in the Police Force Reforms


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Police Militarization; Reform To Reach The Potential

With the technology in society ever advancing, is it not fair to also let police departments take advantage of that technology? The 1033 program gives the opportunity to purchase pre owned or surplus weapons, aircraft and vehicles to police departments nationwide and is otherwise known as police militarization. The modern militarization of police in America owes it origins to several events. The urban riots of the 1960s led to President Lyndon B. Johnson signing into law the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. The Act created the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, which made available grants to local governments to develop and purchase military-type resources to suppress the riots (Schultz 1). President Nixon’s declaration of the war on drugs and its re-emphasis by President Reagan further enhanced the militarization of the police. It did so in its rhetoric, the war metaphor, sanctioning that a military-style response was needed to address drugs (Schultz 2). The war on drugs encouraged the police use of civil forfeitures. This was the confiscation of property of convicted and sometimes suspected drug dealers. Civil forfeiture was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1996; it gave local police departments the money to be able to purchase even more military equipment from the Pentagon. The events of 9-11 and reaction to it led to the collapse of the distinction between criminal policing, intelligence gathering and protection of national security. Laws such as the Patriot Act effectively turned the police into agents in the war against terror, again providing both a war metaphor to support aggressive policing and, with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, new resources and funds to fight that fight with military-style weapons (Schultz 2). In 1997 the 1207 program was expanded to the 1033 program with passing of the National Defense Authorization Act With the ever changing modernized world, police have to find new tactics and ways to keep the population safe. Police Militarization is crucial to protecting the public, but the 1033 program needs to be reformed to make the program more safe and successful.

The 1033 program is a program that gives police forces the chance to protect the public. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), coordinates distribution of military surplus. They screen and distribute weapons to police departments all over the country. “The program provides things like office equipment, tents, generators, pick-up trucks and ATVs. But law enforcement agencies can also use it to obtain military aircraft, weapons (grenade launchers), and heavily armored tactical vehicles (Wofford 1). This program provides police departments with many different types of equipment that ranges from a pen to a bulletproof truck. This gives the police departments a way of getting more equipment than what is provided to them. This also gives police departments the ability to get what they think they need for equipment. This program is very active. 8,000 local law enforcement agencies participate in the reutilization program that has transferred $5.1 billion in military hardware from the Department of Defense to American law enforcement agencies since 1997 (Defense Logistics Agency 1). Almost half of the law enforcement agencies in the United States use this government sponsored program. “The federal government is sending more than $1 billion a year to police departments across the country” (Schultz 2). This shows how active the program is and the government is spending good amount of money on the program. This spending of the governments money has caused many criticism of the program.

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In the eyes of some, police militarization is not appropriate or effective because many police departments and agencies do not need military equipment. They feel that some departments do not need what the program offers, by getting too much of a piece of equipment. A one-officer agency in Michigan received 13 military assault rifles (Shesgreen 2). A one-officer shift does not need more than 1 military rifle but 13 is too much. This criticism is fair because a person can only use one gun at a time, and especially in a one-officer agency, there would not be a need for such a high powered rifle. Another criticism is that some of the weapons on the list should not be made available to agencies. Most police departments in the United States should not have the need for such things such as grenade launcher. Some of the weapons that are on the list should not be on it at all. Police departments should make sure they get proper equipment to deal with threats that historically would not happen in local communities. Also, many police officers are not given much training for these weapons. “The few months of of training that the best police departments required for the preparation of the new recruits could hardly compare to the years of study required of doctors and lawyers, or even teachers and accountants”(Anderson 100). Police are not experts and when you put these weapons in their hand it is not safe. The argument is without proper training, these weapons are not safe to give to anyone, even police officers. Police departments are often seen as too military based. “The majority of police recruits receive their training in academies with a stress-based military orientation”(Balko 53). This gives the police the image that they are trained like a military and they are given the opportunity to use military weapons, instead of helping and being part of the community. Taken at face value the program makes a certain degree of sense: military equipment that would otherwise be destroyed instead gets diverted to cash-strapped local law enforcement agencies. But in some cases, particularly with the heavy equipment, the program may actually be a money loser(Ingraham 1). The equipment is sold at a fraction of the price it was made for so it is losing money for the United States by not selling it at full price. Although there is much criticism about the 1033 program, the program gives police officers a safer chance in protecting the public.

Police Militarization is crucial to the changing times and the equipment that is given can be used in many ways to protect the citizens. Police officers have one of the hardest jobs there is. In the twenty first century criminals are not always the typical bad guy with a pistol. “Anybody who thinks we’re not going to have tactical teams or high-powered weapons in American policing is not paying attention to the reality of police officers” (Shesgreen 2). With the ever changing world, criminals have bigger weapons and the police need to be prepared to overpower the enemy to protect the people. Many gangs or criminals do not have a simple handguns but often automatic weapons making it not safe for the police officers to just have their standard issue handgun. Crime also does not have a set schedule, so something could happen at anytime and a police department should have the tools and equipment to be able to deal with any situation. “In Texas, armored vehicles received through the program protected police officers during a standoff and shootout with a gang member” (Shesgreen 2). The armored vehicles were able to help the police do their jobs better, save their own lives, while also protecting the public. There is a use for the equipment in the program and the armored vehicles in Texas saved the lives of officers and the citizens. The program has also showed signs of being effective during a terrorist attack in Boston. Brian Kamoie, an administrator with the Department of Homeland security, said federal counterterrorism funds provided to Boston proved to be critical when law enforcement there had to deal with the Boston Marathon bombings (Valencia 1). If the program did not provide the equipment and the training for the terrorist situations, the attack in Boston could have been much worse. Equipment that is offered by the program gives agencies that ability to react to any situation the occurs and be able to have a safe outcome for the community. The 1033 program is not just giving rifles and grenade launchers out to departments.

The 1033 program is not solely about equipment for combat and is often used to help the public during non crime related events. “Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben defended the use of federal programs that transfer surplus military equipment to local departments. He said State Police have had access to critical military equipment, such as specialized all-terrain vehicles, for use in search and rescue operations and during natural disasters” (Valencia 2). The vehicles that have been given out are not just used to intimidate the public or bomb proof trucks, they are used to help the public out in many ways. During the height of Superstorm Sandy, Jersey Shore police drove two cargo trucks and three Humvees through water too deep for commercial vehicles to save 64 people (Shesgreen 2). The police departments are finding different ways to use the vehicles they receive from the program, to better help the public. The equipment is used for more than just criminal activity. The 1033 program is very effective for the police departments, but it needs to be adjusted to maximize the success of the program.

To further protect the citizens, the 1033 program needs to be reformed, so that there is more oversight and the program can thrive. The first reform it should be spending the money on equipment that would be beneficial to both the police and the public. “The White House will ask for $263 million to provide police departments with body cameras, which advocates say would provide a clearer picture of confrontations like the incident in Ferguson, in which a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager. The funds would also go toward training” (Liptak 1). The body cameras would be a beneficial way to spend the funds because it helps not only the police officers with evidence and a complete truth of what happened; but also it helps the public generate more trust in the police force. Instead of small town police departments getting grenade launchers and dozens of M16 rifles, they could spend money on more beneficial tools. Federal officials who oversee the programs testified they had no way to track any “military-grade” equipment supplied by the government or purchased with federal dollars (Shesgreen 1). The program needs more oversight, so that it can function better than it does. Each police department who uses the program should have to assign a member of the force to track the equipment. Also, the federal government should also assign workers for certain regions, to make sure the equipments is tracked. “ “We cannot manage local police forces,” said Estevez, adding that the Pentagon doesn’t have the capacity to train local law enforcement officers on how to use military equipment for civilian purposes” (Shesgreen 1). Police officers need more training with these weapons. Government officials should have training classes for each of the pieces of military equipment that they deliver to a department. Before the members of the police department are allowed to use it the equipment, they should have to take the training classes and pass certain tests to be able to use the equipment. The officials also said local authorities needed common standards in the types of equipment they requested and better training in how to use it (Lander). There needs to be a common standard among the whole country, so that every department learns how to use the same equipment the same way. Regulations needs to be set to keep the consistency. President Obama has instead focused on standardizing regulations across the multiple federal agencies primarily the Department of Homeland Security that supply this equipment to cities and towns. He would also seek to improve training and require “after-action” reports for incidents involving federal equipment (Lander 1). Training is a must and it needs to be stressed often because if an officer is not trained to use a certain vehicle or weapon, it is the same as if a civilian uses it. If a common standard for equipment is established, police academies across the country should make all the training officers take the classes on the standardized equipment. There should also be logs for when an officer uses the equipment and when the officer brings it back; as well as how the officer used it. The biggest themes to stress in the reform is by first, finding a common standard with the equipment, so that every department can receive the same equipment. After there is a common standard established, there needs to be proper training established so that the equipment is used properly. Lastly, the money given by the federal government should be used in better ways that can grow the agencies, such as body cameras and more money set into training. If the 1033 program reforms and changes its way it could turn into a very successful program.

Society is always advancing with technology and it makes the jobs of police harder and harder. Police Militarization is crucial to protecting the public, but the 1033 program needs to be reformed to make the program more safe and successful. It not only creates safety from terror attacks and other violent crimes; but it gives agencies tools to save citizens from natural disasters as well. Many critics have valid points by saying that it is too excessive and need to be stopped. This issue has created a division in the country and can be seen especially in Ferguson, Missouri. Police in Ferguson have been posterized for police militarization. With the protest ensuing, two officers were ambushed and shot. This shows how the environment is changing in America where police officers do not have the upper hand. Although the system needs to be reformed, overall police militarization is a smart idea for the United States because if the people protecting the citizens of the United States do not have the upper hand, this country would not be safe and the United States would turn into complete chaos.

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