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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 1, 2020 01:10 PM
From: Senator Sharif Street and Sen. Katie J. Muth
To: All Senate members
Subject: Demilitarization of Law Enforcement
In the near future, we will reintroduce SB1207 which takes steps to demilitarize local law enforcement agencies.

The deployment of SWAT teams and military-style policing tactics by law enforcement agencies (LEAs) has proliferated due in no small part to increased access to and use of military equipment.  This has had deadly impacts on communities of color and impeded the exercise of Constitutional rights across the country. 
Under the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997, the Department of Defense’s (DoD) 1033 program was born. The program was an expansion of a similar program conceived during the “War on Drugs” period that provided military equipment to LEAs for counter-narcotics purposes.  The 1033 program expanded access to excess military equipment to all LEAs while maintaining a prioritization on the deployment of those resources for the purpose of both counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism activities.
The availability of military equipment through the DoD 1033 program and other federal law enforcement funding programs has driven a hard wedge between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. We have seen increasing regularity in the use of this equipment to conduct police work, including when executing no-knock search warrants in drug cases and overseeing our First Amendment right to assemble. For far too long we have witnessed the deadly consequences of this failed policy.
In an effort to address these disparities, President Obama signed an executive order (EO) in 2015 that restricted the types of equipment LEAs were able to purchase through the program.  President Trump reversed the policy protections enacted by the previous administration in 2017.  According to the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), $7.2 billion in excess property has been transferred since the inception of the 1033 program.
Building on the Obama EO, our legislation would limit the types of property LEAs are allowed to acquire from a federal military equipment surplus program operated by the federal government, including the 1033 program. Specifically, it would prohibit the purchase or transfer of:
  • Tracked armored and militarized vehicles;
  • Weaponized aircraft, vessels and vehicles of any kind;
  • Combat configured or coded aircraft;
  • Firearms and ammunition of .50-Caliber or higher;
  • Grenades or similar explosives and grenade launchers;
  • Drones that are armored, weaponized, or both;
  • Silencers;
  • Bayonets; and
  • Camouflage uniforms.

In addition, it would require that any other military-style equipment purchase or acquisition through a federal military supply program may only be paid for with state or local funds. Civilian governing bodies (ie. city council, township commissions, state legislature) must approve the procurement of any military supplies outside the prohibited list that LEAs feel they need to obtain.  LEAs will be required to give notice regarding military supply purchases on a publicly-accessible website at least 14 days prior to action by the civilian governing body.  LEAs must keep a comprehensive inventory of military equipment, including its purported use and an accounting of its deployment.
Law enforcement should protect and serve the communities in which they operate, not occupy neighborhoods and conduct police business as if they were in war zones. Please join us in demilitarizing our police in an effort to restore their primary function as peacekeepers in our commonwealth.

Introduced as SB105