Newell: Police militarization is a smokescreen

Newell Normand
July 08, 2020 - 5:41 pm

Yesterday we were talking about dismantling the police, and now the conversation has evolved further and we’re talking about dismantling the entire US economy and political system. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) says “As long as our economic and political systems prioritize profit, without considering who is profiting and who is being shut out, we will perpetuate inequality. We cannot stop with the criminal justice system, we must begin the work of dismantling the whole system of oppression wherever we find it.”

On the heels of that, two other members of the Squad, Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley announced the BREATHE Act via virtual conference call. It hasn’t been introduced yet, but they were previewing it and said “we can start to envision a new vision for public safety, one that protects and affirms Black lives. Under the bill, Federal funds to local police and Federal agencies would be slashed, and diverted to pay for healthcare, education and environmental and housing programs. It would eliminate Federal programs and agencies used to finance immigration and customs enforcement and the controversial Department of Defense 1033 program, which transfers excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. This program has been criticized for the perceived militarization of local police departments. Other provisions of the bill would abolish surveillance tactics disproportionately used to target minority communities, like electronic monitoring including ankle monitors, smartphone apps, ending civil asset forfeiture, ending three strikes laws, repealing laws that criminalize illegal immigraiton. It would offer a 50% match to states to close down detention facilities and prisons and would bring the elimination of gang databases and the forgiving of all fees and surcharges within the Justice system. The reparations provisions include the passing of the Commission to Study Proposals for Reparations for African-Amercans Act and establishing commissions to design reparations for mass incarceration, to include those caught up in the war on drugs, border and police violence, and the systemic violation of US government treaty obligations to tribal nations.” The list goes on and on and on.

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What's interesting is that they continue to attack this 1033 program. I looked at an analysis of the program from 2019 to 2020 as to what was actually given to law enforcement. The number one piece of equipment given to law enforcement in the 1033 program is cold-weather jackets, followed by cold-weather parkas, armored personnel carriers, combat boots, cold-weather shirts, cargo trucks, generators, reflex sight, socket wrenches, trailers, general mechanic toolkits, storage containers, and wait for it - flashlights. This is what is leading to the militarization of police departments?

This is a great example of smokescreens. They’re trying to get people to believe the Federal government is trying to make these police departments into paramilitary organizations to carry out insidious acts to foster their argument about systemic racism in policing. They do not have the data to support what they’re talking about, but yet they continue to talk about these issues. 

Where would that surplus equipment go otherwise? In Louisiana, it led to a cost savings of about $1.5 million if these departments went out and purchased these things on the open market. In California, they got $19 million worth of equipment. It seems to me that’s a good use of our Federal dollars, being that this is surplus equipment that can still be used by others. I don't find any of the above items obnoxious at all. Jackets? Boots? But they’re going to try to perpetuate this myth that this is all about the militarization of local police departments. It all began in Ferguson. If you recall, they were saying that all of that equipment out there was part of this 1033 program, but that was completely debunked. 

Back to Minnesota, we have all this virtue signaling going on, but the communities of color that were impacted in Minneapolis are getting no help. Their dreams have been completely dismantled. They’re no longer able to support themselves. Who is there on the street trying to help these people get their lives back together after their businesses were burned to the ground? Nobody. They’re not there.

It’s another byproduct of a total lack of leadership. This is all about perpetuating an ideology and not really caring about the trials and tribulations of folks in the trenches, following the law and doing what's right, now they’re down and out and guess who’s not there with a hand out to help them? The same selfish leaders talking about dismantling our whole form of government. 


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