In 2021, the Pentagon gave police $94 million in military gear
Speaking Security Newsletter | Advisory Note for Activists and Candidates, n°142 | 4 January 2022
In case you missed it: My latest piece in Jacobin is here.
Biden campaigned on police reform and early on it looked like he would deliver. The House passed the Justice in Policing Act in March, swiftly advancing it on to the Senate before Biden even introduced his infrastructure plan. However, it quickly stalled out in the Senate before negotiations totally collapsed in September.
After talks ended, the Democrat negotiators for the Justice in Policing Act, Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Karen Bass (the latter wrote the bill), called on Biden to get whatever chunks of the bill enacted via executive action. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was “disappointed” that the bill didn’t pass and echoed what Biden said in a statement, i.e., that he would explore “executive actions I can take to advance our efforts to live up to the American ideal of equal justice under law.” Biden must still be in the exploring phase.
A quick and easy way Biden can make a difference
The 1033 program is a Pentagon-run grant program that sends military and non-military gear to police that the Pentagon decides it no longer needs. Once a piece of equipment is declared ‘excess’ the Pentagon posts it to a website and police can claim it (more on this process, here). It started as a pilot program during the War on Drugs and over time has expanded and become entrenched into law.
The Justice and Policing Act included language that would take a big step in demilitarizing the police by prohibiting transfer of military-grade items through the 1033 program. Converting this language into an executive order would be simple. If written correctly, the executive order could prohibit future transfers to police and recall past transfers. Since the inception of the 1033 program, police have received at least $1.8 billion in military gear from the Pentagon. This includes the more than $90 million that went out in 2021 alone ($94,335,768 to be exact, according to Pentagon data). The problem is Biden continues to insist on doing nothing.
Thanks for your time,