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92 Civil, Human Rights, Faith, Government Accountability organizations call on Congress to end police militarization by repealing the Department of Defense's 1033 Program

By Oxfam

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, 92 organizations representing tens of millions of Americans sent a letter to members of the House Armed Services Committee, calling on them to end the Pentagon’s 1033 Program that contributes to militarized policing. The letter came as the committee prepares to mark up the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday.

The military surplus equipment transfer program, known as the 1033 Program, was formally established in the 1997 FY National Defense Authorization Act. Since its inception, more than $7.4 billion in surplus military equipment and goods, including armored vehicles, rifles, and aircraft, have been transferred to more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies across the country.

The letter, organized by Demand Progress, states “Weapons of war have absolutely no place in our communities. What’s more, evidence has shown that law enforcement agencies that obtain military equipment are more prone to violence.” Nearly 60,000 Demand Progress members have sent letters to Congress since the murder of George Floyd to demand that Congressional leaders end the 1033 Program.

“Demilitarizing the police is a crucial step towards the broader goals of ending institutional racism and stopping police brutality,” said Yasmine Taeb, Senior Policy Counsel at Demand Progress. “Militarized policing supported by weapons of war has terrorized our communities, and in particular, our communities of color. We join tens of thousands of our members across the country calling on Congress to shut down the 1033 Program once and for all.”

“The program that allows for excess military equipment to flow into the hands of domestic law enforcement agencies has for far too long flooded the streets and border regions with excess weaponry,” said Jesse Franzblau, Senior Policy Analyst at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “This equipment has gone to immigration enforcement agencies that have been deployed to protests and to police communities of color. Taking legislative action to end the program is a critical step towards demilitarizing law enforcement across the country.”

“As an international humanitarian agency, Oxfam sees firsthand how the unchecked flow of weapons fuels human rights abuses and suffering around the world, said Noah Gottschalk, Humanitarian Policy Lead at Oxfam America. “We’re seeing the same patterns here in the US, where the weapons of war transferred through the 1033 Program have not made people safer, but instead led to increased violence against civilians, particularly Black and historically marginalized communities by increasingly militarized police forces. Oxfam fully supports the Congressional leaders who are demanding the immediate end to the 1033 Program as a key step in the urgent movement to reimagine the future of policing, community safety and justice in the United States.”

“If the Pentagon has so many billions of dollars in surplus weapons and equipment that it can’t even inventory and track properly, then Congress has clearly given the Department of Defense too much taxpayer money,” said Lora Lumpe, CEO of the Quincy Institute. “Congress needs to exercise its “power of the purse” with much greater care. Funding unneeded weapons and equipment that then end up in the hands of urban and rural police departments just to keep favored production lines open is bad policy and irresponsible governing.”

“With over 1,000 deaths at the hands of police every year, we should be looking to restrain police, not arm them with deadly militarized weapons. Sadly, that’s exactly what we’re doing with the 1033 Program,” said José Woss, Legislative Manager at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “As a Quaker, I know that each and every single life is precious with that of God dwelling in their soul. It’s alarming that peaceful protestors and everyday citizens are treated like threats in a war zone. The dehumanization and violence on display in communities of color is even worse. The 1033 program has no place in our streets, it must be ended.”

The letter, and the full list of signers, is available here.

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