Democrats Target Police With New Bill Preventing Them From Getting Equipment

( Democrats are taking a new route to defunding the police. Instead of attacking the money, they’re going after much-needed equipment.

This week, a Democratic bill sponsored by Georgia Representative Hank Johnson was introduced in the House that would limit a Pentagon program that currently sends military-grade equipment to various local police departments.

According to a summary of the bill that was shared with The Hill, the bill “goes after the items that destroy trust and endanger communities while allowing support equipment transfers to continue.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Johnson said of the bill:

“Our neighborhoods need to be protected, but Americans and our founding fathers opposed blurring the line between police and the military. Before another town is transformed into a warzone with gifts of grenade launchers and high-caliber rifles, we must rein in this program and revisit our view of the safety of American cities and towns.”

There are 73 Democratic co-sponsors of the bill. Republican Representative Tom McClintock, from California, is the lone GOP co-sponsor.

The language in this bill mirrors that of the wide-reaching police reform bill that the House passed last week. It’s unlikely that particular bill, called the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, is going to pass through Congress, though. It would face an uphill battle garnering 60 votes in favor of it in the Senate.

It could be why the House is introducing this standalone bill, figuring they have a better chance to pass singular items of police reform rather than a general bill that is likely to face a lot of resistance.

The program at issue is called the 1033 program. It allows the Pentagon to transfer any excess military equipment it has to various police departments around the country.

In 2015, then-President Barack Obama placed limits on the 1033 program following protests in Ferguson, Missouri, in which police used the military-grade equipment to fight back the people on the streets. In 2017, though, then-President Donald Trump rescinded Obama’s restrictions on the program.

Current President Joe Biden has for a while been expected to issue a new executive order that would impose new restrictions on the 1033 program. He hasn’t done so yet, though, so this House bill could put pressure on him for what he should include in that order.

Members of the House are planning to send the president a letter this week that will call on him to issue that executive order that would “end the transfer of military-grade weaponry through the Pentagon’s 1033 program onto the streets of our communities,” according to human rights lawyer and activist Yasmine Taeb.

This House standalone bill is also serving as a way to try to pressure Congress to include it in the annual National Defense Authorization Act. Last year’s version of the NDAA actually included language that would limit the program by blocking the Pentagon transfer of weaponized tracked combat vehicles, weaponized drones, grenades and bayonets.

But, liberals believe that language didn’t go far enough. They’re hoping to do even more this time around.