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Policy Library

Make Communities Safer by Stopping the Use of Military Equipment Against Americans

Numerous studies have found that increased use of military equipment by police leads to increased civilian casualties. Yet since 2017, the Department of Defense has transferred nearly $760 million in military-grade equipment to local police and sheriff’s departments with little oversight of how it is used. By stopping the transfer of military weapons to police departments, and bringing transparency to any non-weapon transfer of federal equipment, the Protect Communities Act will make communities safer and save money.

The National Landscape

Passed in:

Montana, New Jersey

Introduced in:

Arizona, New York, Virginia

In The News

“Terron Sims II, an Army veteran in Arlington, Virginia who's attended several recent protests, said some of the videos he's seen of officers rolling through their cities in mine-resistant vehicles remind him of the equipment he used while serving in Iraq.  ‘It'd be one thing if you're fighting al Qaeda in the streets, but we're not,’ said Sims. ‘They're facing a peaceful crowd of folks exercising their constitutional rights.’”
“Longstanding complaints that American police act more and more like soldiers in urban combat have grown more frequent and more urgent after George Floyd died of suffocation as a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck for nine minutes.”
“Sabrina Karim, a professor of government at Cornell University [said], ‘I’ll also say that militarized policing is not just specific to the response to protests. But also it’s kind of everyday policing. So you see things like the no-knock raids that killed Breonna Taylor.’”

Partners

  • Communities interested in safer policing

Opposition

  • Special interests invested in increased use of military equipment
Call us for real-time support using this library, problem-solving tips, and follow-up from our team of national experts:
The State Line
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FAQ

How does this make communities safer?
Research shows that increased use of military equipment by police leads to increased civilian casualties. Stopping the use of military equipment in American communities would reverse this, making everyone safer.
Is this high-cost to the state?
No, jurisdictions would be spared the often-high cost of maintaining, transporting and converting military equipment, as well as training officers in its use.
But doesn’t military equipment help fight crime?
No. Studies show that police use of military equipment is not associated with any reductions in crime rates.
Doesn’t military equipment help protect police officers?
No. Research shows no association between the use of military equipment in policing and officer safety.
Print

Model Policy

SECTION 1 (TITLE):
This act shall be known as the Protect Communities Act.

SECTION 2 (PURPOSE):
This act prevents the acquisition of certain military equipment by police departments and requires public notification for any other military equipment transfer requests by law enforcement.

SECTION 3 (PROVISIONS):

(a) A law enforcement agency may not receive or purchase the following property from a military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government:
  • (i) drones that are armored, weaponized, or both;
  • (ii) aircraft that are combat configured or combat coded;
  • (iii) grenades or similar explosives and grenade launchers;
  • (iv) silencers;
  • (v) militarized armored vehicles;
  • (vi) long range acoustic devices;
  • (vii) bayonets;
  • (viii) riot gear, including batons, helmets and shields;
  • (ix) camouflage uniforms;
  • (x) firearms or ammunition;
  • (xi) explosives or pyrotechnics; or
  • (xii) chemical incapacitants.
(b) If a law enforcement agency requests property other than that listed in 3(a) above from a military equipment surplus program, the law enforcement agency shall transmit a notice of the request to the STATE Attorney General and publish a notice of the request on its publicly accessible website within fourteen days after such request.
(c) If a law enforcement agency receives property other than that listed in 3(a) above from a military equipment surplus program, the law enforcement agency shall transmit to the STATE Attorney General and publish on its publicly accessible website, within fourteen days of receipt of the property, information about the equipment received, and the purposes for which the equipment will be used.
(d) The STATE Attorney General shall annually transmit to the Governor, and publish on a publicly accessible website, a report on the total number of transactions with the federal government made by all law enforcement agencies in STATE, such report to include, at a minimum,
  • (i) the number of equipment purchases, transfers, and requests that were made;
  • (ii) the exact equipment received, and the purposes for which the equipment was to be and was used;
  • (iii) any civil rights violations or complaints filed associated with any equipment obtained from federal military equipment surplus programs in that year;
  • (iv) recommendations as to any categories of equipment that should be added to section (3)(a) above to further the purposes of this legislation; and,
  • (v) if the State is suspended from any federal equipment surplus program, the report also shall include the dates of and basis for the suspension.