This week, the ACLU released its report, War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Police. The report revealed what the ACLU described as massive military-grade weapons caches in Arizona law enforcement departments.
According to the report, the arsenals were “acquired mainly through the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which transfers military-grade weaponry to state and local police departments, free of charge.”
Across the state, “law enforcement agencies in Arizona have acquired a staggering cache of military weaponry, primarily through the 1033 program,” according to the ACLU.
“All 1033 equipment coming into Arizona goes through the Payson Police Department and makes its way to state and local law enforcement agencies,” reports the ACLU.
The people of Arizona, who are aware of the growing militarization, wonder why Arizona law enforcement, who are tasked to serve and protect them, are equipped to wage a war against them. The actions of some law enforcement as alarmed many and forced them to speak out. When members of the public discovered that the Cochise County Sheriff was considering deputizing federal officers so that feral agents might have jurisdiction they would not otherwise have, members of the public brought pressure on the Sheriff and stopped him in his tracks.
While a “great deal of military-grade equipment in Arizona is ostensibly obtained for purposes of securing the U.S. border with Mexico, but the track record of federal grant programs suggests that this equipment may well be diverted to other activities, such as the investigations and warrants,” reads the report. “The bottom line is that Arizona law enforcement agencies at and well beyond the actual border have become unnecessarily and dangerously militarized.”
The report concludes, ”Finally, the public has a right to know how law enforcement agencies are policing its communities and spending its tax dollars. The militarization of American policing has occurred with almost no oversight, and it is time to shine a bright light on the policies, practices, and weaponry that have turned too many of our neighborhoods into war zones.”
According to ACLU research, law enforcement agencies in Arizona have acquired the weaponry below primarily through the 1033 program, including:
• 32 bomb suits
• 704 units of night vision equipment, e.g., night- vision goggles
• 42 forced entry tools, such as battering rams
• 830 units of surveillance and reconnaissance equipment
• 13,409 personal protective equipment (PPE) and/or uniforms
• 120 utility trucks
• 64 armored vehicles
• 4 GPS devices
• 17 helicopters
• 21,211 other types of military equipment
The ACLU recommends:
● State legislatures and municipalities should “impose meaningful restraints on the use of SWAT. SWAT deployments should be limited to the kinds of scenarios for which these aggressive measures were originally intended: barricade, hostage, and active shooter situations. Rather than allow a SWAT deployment in any case that is deemed (for whatever reason the officers determine) to be “high risk,” the better practice would be for law enforcement agencies to have in place clear standards limiting SWAT deployments to scenarios that are truly “high risk.”
● SWAT teams should never be deployed based solely on probable cause to believe drugs are present, even if they have a warrant to search a home. In addition, SWAT teams should not equate the suspected presence of drugs with a threat of violence.
● SWAT deployment for warrant service is appropriate only if the police can demonstrate, before deployment, that ordinary law enforcement officers cannot safely execute a warrant without facing an imminent threat of serious bodily harm. In making these determinations, it is important to take into consideration the fact that use of a SWAT team can escalate rather than ameliorate potential violence; law enforcement should take appropriate precautions to avoid the use of SWAT whenever possible.
● All SWAT deployments, regardless of the underlying purpose, should be proportional—not all situations call for a SWAT deployment consisting of 20 heavily armed officers in an APC, and partial deployments should be encouraged when appropriate.
●Local police departments should develop their own internal policies calling for appropriate restraints on the use of SWAT and should avoid all training programs that encourage a “warrior” mindset.