On Monday, the White House announced that federal funding for COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccines would soon be depleted unless Congress approves a new spending bill. While Republicans are largely responsible for the ongoing Congressional stalemate, the Biden administration has been criticized for encouraging local governments to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief aid package that was approved last March, on policing in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.
“I want more cities and states to use some of the $350 billion we sent to them on the American Rescue Plan to fight crime, to keep our communities safe by hiring more police officers for community policing and paying police overtime,” said President Biden at a Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Meeting in February 2022, “and purchasing gun-fighting technologies, like technologies that hears, locates gunshots so there can be immediate response because you know exactly where it came from.”
State and local officials across the country have heeded this call, and some towns and cities are now approving police requests to spend pandemic relief funds on drones and armored vehicles. The Kingsport Police Department, a small agency in Tennessee, purchased two “military-grade” drones in early March. And Dixon County City Council in California is considering using ARPA funds on a police drone program, body-worn cameras, and a license plate reader program.