2nd State Resisting Militarization Of Cops

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New law cracks down on grenade launch­ers, armored vehi­cles, drones

Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) Vehicle

Mine-Resis­tant Ambush-Pro­tect­ed (MRAP) Vehi­cle

A sec­ond state has joined a grow­ing effort to curb the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of local police depart­ments by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

WND report­ed last month New Jer­sey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill that bans local law-enforce­ment agen­cies from obtain­ing nightscopes, mil­i­tary assault rifles, grenade launch­ers and 14-ton Mine-Resis­tant Ambush-Pro­tect­ed vehi­cles through a fed­er­al pro­gram with­out local over­sight.

The issue drew nation­al atten­tion when law-enforce­ment offi­cers in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, out­fit­ted like an invad­ing army, were deployed against vio­lent pro­test­ers out­raged by the shoot­ing death of black teen Michael Brown by a white police offi­cer.

Now, accord­ing to the Tenth Amend­ment Cen­ter, Montana’s gov­er­nor has signed into law a bill that “would heav­i­ly dimin­ish the effect of fed­er­al pro­grams that mil­i­ta­rize local police.”

The bill, HB330, bans state or local law enforce­ment from receiv­ing sig­nif­i­cant class­es of mil­i­tary equip­ment from the Pentagon’s “1033 Pro­gram.”

It was approved 46–1 in the state Sen­ate and 79–20 in the House. Demo­c­rat Gov. Steve Bul­lock signed it.

The Tenth Amend­ment Cen­ter said the new law “will pro­hib­it state or local law enforce­ment agen­cies from receiv­ing drones that are armored, weaponized, or both; air­craft that are com­bat con­fig­ured or com­bat cod­ed; grenades or sim­i­lar explo­sives and grenade launch­ers; silencers; and ‘mil­i­ta­rized armored vehi­cles’ from fed­er­al mil­i­tary sur­plus pro­grams.”

It also pre­vents law enforce­ment agen­cies in the state from buy­ing such mil­i­tary equip­ment with fed­er­al grants.

They could con­tin­ue to pur­chase them, but would have to use state or local funds, and the agen­cies would have to give pub­lic notice with­in 14 days of a request for any such local pur­chase,” the cen­ter report­ed.

State Rep. Nicholas Schwader­er, a Repub­li­can, spon­sored the plan and told the cen­ter: “This foun­da­tion sets a mas­sive prece­dent in Mon­tana and the coun­try as to what kind of soci­ety we want to have. If you get to the point where you need a grenade launch­er, we’ve got the Nation­al Guard.”

WND report­ed there are some 17,000 police depart­ments nation­wide equipped with $4.2 bil­lion worth of equip­ment rang­ing from Black­hawk heli­copters and bat­ter­ing rams to explo­sives, body armor and night vision.

It’s all under the fed­er­al government’s “1033″ pro­gram that sup­plies “sur­plus” mil­i­tary weapons to local offi­cers, depart­ments and agen­cies.

In New Jer­sey, S2364, by state Sen. Nia Gill, a Demo­c­rat, put local gov­ern­ment offi­cials direct­ly between the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and local law enforcers. It was approved on votes of 36–0 and 70–0 in the leg­isla­tive cham­bers.

The Tenth Amend­ment Center’s report at the time said it was the first state to direct­ly address “the end­less flow of mil­i­tary equip­ment to state and local police.”

The bill “wouldn’t put an end to the mil­i­ta­riza­tion of New Jer­sey law enforce­ment, but it does cre­ate a mech­a­nism for local com­mu­ni­ties to stop the free-flow­ing tide of equip­ment.”

Cit­i­zens now have the pow­er and forum to pres­sure their elect­ed offi­cials at a city or coun­ty lev­el to vote against such acqui­si­tions or face the con­se­quences come the next elec­tion. The new law also cre­ates an envi­ron­ment of trans­paren­cy that didn’t exist before,” the cen­ter said.

Cen­ter offi­cials told WND more than half a dozen addi­tion­al states also are con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar or relat­ed lan­guage, includ­ing some that have sig­nif­i­cant­ly stronger lan­guage than New Jersey’s.

Tenth Amend­ment Cen­ter spokesman Michael Boldin told WND: “Our view is that the New Jer­sey law is sig­nif­i­cant because it rep­re­sents the first sal­vo by states against an unfet­tered flow of mil­i­tary equip­ment from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to state and local law enforce­ment. Oth­er states are like­ly to take stronger steps for­ward in the near future. Good polic­ing is about act­ing like peace offi­cers, not a com­mand and con­trol mil­i­tary force. With more fed­er­al con­trol over local police being a goal of some in the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, the New Jer­sey law giv­ing final say over the receipt of such mil­i­tary equip­ment to local com­mu­ni­ties is an impor­tant vic­to­ry.”

WND recent­ly report­ed the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union was crit­i­cal of the 1033 pro­gram.

Cheryl Chum­ley, author of “Police State USA: How Orwell’s Night­mare is Becom­ing our Real­i­ty,” said the infor­ma­tion is “insight­ful and infor­ma­tive.”

The ACLU is dead wrong on a num­ber of issues – but on this, on the red flag raised on mil­i­ta­rized police, the group is dead on cor­rect,” she said.

She said the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has had lit­tle inter­est until recent­ly in exam­in­ing the process of dis­trib­ut­ing war weapons to police depart­ments.

He’s like­ly been qui­et because of state­ments he made in mid-2008 call­ing for a civil­ian police force akin to the size and pow­er of the nation’s mil­i­tary – and now he sees the fruits of that desire are not so appe­tiz­ing after all.”

[/su_youtube] WND report­ed at the time that a copy of Obama’s Col­orado Springs speech post­ed online appar­ent­ly was edit­ed to exclude Obama’s spe­cif­ic ref­er­ences to the new force.

Are mem­bers of the Amer­i­can pub­lic in dan­ger because of the pro­gram?

Some would say yes. The Review-Jour­nal in Las Vegas has report­ed a law­suit by mem­bers of a fam­i­ly claim­ing civ­il rights vio­la­tions by police.

The report explains police thought a neigh­bor of Michael and Lin­da Mitchell, and their adult son Antho­ny, had bar­ri­cad­ed him­self and a child in a near­by home.

SWAT team mem­bers demand­ed that the Mitchells leave their home so police could use it for a tac­ti­cal “advan­tage” dur­ing the cri­sis. They refused and “police lat­er knocked down Antho­ny Mitchell’s door with a met­al ram and entered his house with­out either a war­rant or his per­mis­sion,” their claim alleges.

Mitchell was arrest­ed, the report said.

WND also has report­ed on a trend in which cities and coun­ties are return­ing the war weapons.

When­ev­er this kind of arma­ment is brought into a com­mu­ni­ty, it should only be done with the knowl­edge and con­sent of the cit­i­zen­ry,” John White­head, a con­sti­tu­tion­al attor­ney based in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, said in a state­ment released to WND.

The report not­ed law enforce­ment agen­cies across the coun­try have qui­et­ly returned more than 6,000 unwant­ed or unus­able items to the Pen­ta­gon in the last 10 years, accord­ing to Moth­er Jones mag­a­zine.

The report not­ed that dur­ing the 1980s, SWAT raids num­bered about 3,000 a year but now occur more than 80,000 times per year.

The results some­times are hor­ren­dous. WND pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed on an inci­dent in rur­al Haber­sham Coun­ty, Geor­gia, in which a SWAT team threw a flash-bang grenade into a home where offi­cers believed a drug deal­er was hid­ing out. The grenade land­ed in the crib of a 19-month-old boy and blew open his face. The tod­dler spent five weeks in the hos­pi­tal fol­low­ing the May 28 inci­dent which the local sher­iff called “a mis­take.”