Open The Government Praises Congress for Removing Harmful Amendment that Would Further Militarize Police Departments

This Victory is a Good First Step in Ensuring Our Police Departments Don’t Look Like Platoons, Says OTG 

WASHINGTON – Open The Government, a leading advocate for transparency to promote government accountability, applauds the defeat of a dangerous provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have made it easier for the military to transfer excess hardware to federal, state and local police departments.

“This victory is a good step towards ensuring our police don’t look like platoons,” said Open The Government Executive Director Lisa Rosenberg. “At a time when greater transparency and oversight is needed, we are pleased that we made it a little more challenging for military weapons and surveillance equipment to flow to local security forces.”

The defeated amendment, introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), would have provided state, federal and local law enforcement agencies with expedited and preferential treatment in securing military hardware such as drones, night vision goggles, and Humvees for border enforcement.  Members of Congress removed the amendment in conference, rejecting the pretense that further militarizing law enforcement is needed to increase public safety.

The Poe Amendment would have expanded on the Pentagon’s notorious 1033 program, which has led to the militarization of local police departments. Most people became familiar with the program though news coverage of the 2014 protests in Ferguson, MO. after Michael Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson. During the protests, the police department raised concerns when it confronted protesters with military hardware. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) established the controversial 1033 program in FY 1997.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order in January 2015, placing restrictions on the 1033 program and establishing oversight and training requirements for law enforcement agencies requesting the DOD equipment. That order also established a DOD, Department of Homeland Security, and Justice Department interagency working group to ensure oversight.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the 1033 program was unaccountable, lacking in oversight, and a potential threat to national security. After posing as a fake law enforcement agency, GAO officials requested and received $1.2 million in rifles, pipe bomb equipment, and night vision goggles through the 1033 program; which, according to the report, was “like getting stuff off of eBay.”

Open The Government, is a Washington-based non-partisan coalition of good-and-limited- government groups, environmentalists, journalists, library and consumer groups, labor, and others united to make the federal government a more open place in order to ensure integrity and accountability in the operation of our governing institutions, foster confidence in representative government, and support our democratic principles. 

Contact: Wayne Besen, Communications Director
Phone: 917-691-5118