Haaland, Johnson, Gallego Lead Next Steps to Demilitarize Local Police Departments

June 12, 2020
Press Release
The Protect Act takes steps to remove military weapons that are already in the hands of police
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Deb Haaland, Hank Johnson, and Ruben Gallego introduced a bill that would take the next steps to demilitarize local police departments. The bill comes as the country grapples with the recent murder of unarmed Black individuals throughout the country, and as U.S. House Democrats work on sweeping Justice in Policing Act. The PROTECT Act would move to significantly demilitarize our local and state police forces by requiring the Department of Justice to create a new Gear for Grants program that would provide funding for de-escalation training, anti-racist training, or purchases of body cameras for officers in exchange for the return of military-grade weapons. The Protect Act builds on Rep. Hank Johnson’s longstanding efforts to eliminate the 1033 program and end distribution of military-grade equipment to local police departments and takes steps to remove military weapons that are already in the hands of police. 
“Black lives matter. Right now police forces are armed with weapons of war that put Black lives at risk of police brutality and death. That’s why I’m working with Reps. Hank Johnson and Ruben Gallego to take those weapons of war out of our police departments and instead promote anti-racist and de-escalation training,” said Rep. Haaland.
“In the aftermath of Michael Brown’s murder in 2014, I introduced legislation to address the militarization of our police. Today, I am proud to join Rep. Deb Haaland in co-introducing the Protect Act, which removes military equipment from our streets by creating incentives for police departments to return weapons of war gifted to them by the Pentagon. This is a common-sense solution for protecting our communities,” said Rep. Johnson.
“Police are not soldiers and have different missions and needs than our troops abroad. Police officers have a responsibility to protect and uphold the rights of the people they serve and must be interwoven into the fabric of our communities. Our fellow Americans are not an enemy to be dominated. We must stop providing weapons of war to police,” said Rep. Gallego.
Since 1997, the Department of Defense has been allowed to transfer excess military equipment including armored cars, land mines, and rocket-propelled grenades, the transfers extend to undergarments, air conditioners, rifles, sonar equipment, and more to Federal, State, and county police agencies through the 1033 Program. President Obama issued an Executive Order on the program after Ferguson in 2014, arguing such a program weakens community trust. This Executive Order has been since rescinded. 
According to research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences increases in transfers have been shown to harm police reputation, make police officers more violent, increases assaults against police officers and have no effect on solving or stopping crime. 
The City of Albuquerque has particularly invested in reforms that promote community-police collaboration and have not received military equipment from the 1033 program since 2015. 
Albuquerque Mayor Keller announced support for the Protect Act stating, “Under our administration, APD has not received military-style weapons from the federal government. Their use in policing is out of step with our values around community safety, and we fully support steps to demilitarize local police forces.”
The PROTECT Act specifically:
  • Establishes that Congress finds the program created to transfer military grade weapons, the 1033 Program ineffective.
  • Stops the transfer of all small arms and ammunition and limits any transfers to be related to counterterrorism.
  • Creates a ‘Gear for Grants’ Program that gives priority to states and units of local government that give back, or do not receive, equipment from the Department of Defense in the last twelve months.
  • Requires ‘Gear for Grants’ funding to be used for de-escalation training, anti-racist training, or purchases of body cameras for officers.
The Protect Act is also co-sponsored by U.S Representatives Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Keren Bass (CA-37), Steve Cohen (TN-9), Madeleine Dean (PA-4), Jahana Hayes (CT-5), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large), Michael San Nicolas (GU-At Large), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Terri Sewell (AL-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12).
The Protect Act is endorsed by oversight groups, faith based organizations, and civil liberties organizations including: Project On Government Oversight, Next100, ACLU-New Mexico, Government Information Watch, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd U.S .Provinces, Disciples Center for Public Witness.
Organizations in New Mexico and across the country voiced support for the Protect Act. 
“The ACLU has long maintained that equipping officers of the peace with the equipment of war only exacerbates the culture of aggression and the warrior mentality that infects many law enforcement agencies and fractures fragile trust between the police and the people they serve. Officers and sheriff's deputies do not need tanks, grenade launchers and bayonets. Our communities are not war zones. We fully support this legislation that seeks to demilitarize police and remove weapons of war from our streets.” - ACLU-New Mexico
“The PROTECT Act will help local communities take the important step of demilitarizing their police departments and help them transition to community policing, said Tim Stretton, policy analyst at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). POGO commends Reps. Haaland, Johnson, and Gallego for introducing this critically important piece of legislation.” - Project On Government Oversight 
“At Next100, we believe military grade weapons have no place in our communities - ever. That is why we support Rep. Deb Haaland’s bill, the PROTECT Act, which would limit the sale and donation of military grade weapons to local police departments, and ensure Department of Justice grant funds are prioritized to communities that don’t have or use these weapons. We deeply believe we must divest from police and invest in our communities. We have a vision for the future where our communities, and especially the Black community, can live without fear of police brutality. We have a vision for the future where our communities, and especially the Black community, can feel not just safe, but supported. The PROTECT Act is a down payment on that future.” Next100 is a start-up think tank focused on developing the next generation of progressive policy leaders, including bringing new, diverse voices, perspectives and ideas into the progressive policy space.” - Next100