Earlier this week, we wrote about Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions bringing back the Defense Department’s 1033 program, which helped militarize local police forces with surplus military equipment. We’ve been covering all sorts of problems with the 1033 program over the years, and people like Radley Balko have written entire books on the problem. And the previous ban on the 1033 only put a fairly narrow limit on the practice of militarizing police — but now even those modest limits are gone.
What’s truly incredible, however, is the complete nonsense being used to justify this. Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a speech about this on Monday, in which he trotted out his standard misleading and out-of-context stats, falsely claiming that there’s some massive new crimewave across the country, when there’s really just been a tiny bump after decades of decline in crime rates (the use of percentages by Sessions shows the he likely knows the absolute numbers are so meaningless that he has to mislead with percentages working off a small base).
But, even with the usual misleading claims about violence and violence directed towards police, I still never expected him to… point to Houston and the impact of Hurricane Harvey as a reason for increased police militarization. But that’s exactly what he did:
Those restrictions went too far. We will not put superficial concerns above public safety. All you need to do is turn on a tv right now to see that for Houstonians this isn’t about appearances, its about getting the job done and getting everyone to safety.
Wait. Law enforcement in Houston needs surplus military equipment to rescue people? Last I’ve seen it’s been tons of good hearted people using boats of all kinds going around and rescuing people. I don’t see much need for military equipment.
Once again, this looks like law enforcement using “any means necessary” to justify getting their military surplus toys, despite tremendous evidence of how this process is abused, how it harms community relations and how it leads to civil rights of the public being violated. To point to the disaster in Houston as a reason for restarting the program is not just frivolous, it’s dangerous.