COLUMBUS – State Representatives Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) and Erica Crawley (D-Columbus), both veterans of the United States Armed Forces, yesterday introduced House Bill (HB) 721 – legislation to reform Ohio’s participation in the federal 1033 program. Currently, the 1033 program allows local law enforcement agencies to procure excess military equipment from the Defense Logistics Agency at little to no cost. HB 721 would prohibit the transfer of drones, aircraft, grenades, grenade launchers and weaponized armored vehicles from the Defense Logistics Agency to local law enforcement agencies.
“This type of military-grade equipment was largely intended to be used in counter-terrorism activity by trained military personnel. Deploying this equipment in the field is counterproductive and proves to be escalatory,” said Rep. Weinstein. “In the exceedingly rare event where the use of military-grade equipment might become necessary, it should be properly trained members of the military responding, not law enforcement.”
“Our police departments are tasked with protecting and serving, and we have to address how the ‘militarization’ of our police departments play a role in the breakdown of police-community relations,” said Rep. Crawley. “Community trust is vital to the foundation of safe communities; however, when militarized equipment is used, it is believed that law enforcement officers adopt a warrior mindset where the public is the enemy rather than the people they serve. To achieve the foundational trust, the view of police as a military unit going into war against the public must be eliminated.”
The 1033 program previously came under scrutiny after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., which led President Obama to issue an executive order in May of 2015 that curtailed the program, preventing the transfer of tactical vehicles and many types of ammunition, explosives, and firearms. President Trump reversed that executive order in August of 2017.