Posted by 24 July 2020
The Senate passed the Department of Defense authorization bill this week, but defeated a bipartisan amendment to ban the transfer of some surplus military equipment to state and local police.
Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hi) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) sponsored an amendment that would place new limits on a controversial program where the Department of Defense provides surplus military items to police department around the country. This program has come under increasing scrutiny with the police response to protests over the murder of George Floyd.
Under the Schatz amendment, the Department of Defense could not transfer these items to state or local police departments:
- Bayonets, grenade launchers, grenades (excluding stun and flash-bang), explosives, and firearms of .50 caliber or higher and ammunition of 0.5 caliber or higher.
- Tracked combat vehicles.
- Weaponized drones.
- Asphyxiating gases, including those comprised of lachrymatory agents, and analogous liquids, materials or devices.
Critics argue that these items are inappropriate for local police departments. They say that military hardware that is designed to kill a foreign enemy should not be deployed by domestic police departments. Supporters of the program contend that it is a vital way for police departments to obtain law enforcement tools at no cost. They say that many of these items are necessary to protect people and property.
While a majority of senators agreed by a vote of 51-49, the amendment needed 60 votes to be approved. Instead, the Senate voted 90-10 for an amendment by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) that bans a much narrower category of military equipment from being transferred and imposes new training requirements.
Do you think the federal program to provide military equipment to police departments should be ended?