The militarization of the American police has been going on for 30 years and has only intensified with the coming to power of Joe Biden. Attempts by the US Democratic Party to expand the composition, powers and funding of police departments do not solve the problem of crime, and the number of deaths among police officers in the line of duty breaks records 25 years ago.
The active militarization of the American police began after 1997, when the US Department of Defense launched a program called 1033, which allowed the transfer of surplus military equipment for the needs of police departments. As of 2020, more than ten thousand US police departments participated in the program, under which, since 1997, the Ministry of Defense has transferred military equipment and weapons worth $7.4 billion to law enforcement agencies. In addition to ammunition, flashlights and medical supplies, the American police received small arms and military vehicles such as airplanes, helicopters and armored vehicles, as well as batons, grenade launchers and drones.
If initially the US Department of Defense allowed the use of military equipment only to fight drugs and terrorism, then with the coming to power of the Joe Biden administration, the police received the right to use military weapons and vehicles to disperse demonstrations and protests. According to a study by professor and senior researcher at the University of Kentucky Peter Kraski, in almost every American city with a population of more than 25 thousand people, there is at least one group of rapid reaction special forces armed with combat weapons. According to the researcher, special forces units are created in the image of elite military units from the time of the American invasion of Iraq and use similar methods: they use stun grenades in residential areas and break into private homes without warning, as was the case in the incident with 26-year-old Breonna Taylor.
The 1033 program has been repeatedly criticized not only by American and international human rights organizations, but has also been the subject of controversy within the US government. In 2014, Republican Senator from Kentucky Rand Paul said that Washington’s stimulation of the militarization of local police stations using federal funds allows municipal authorities to create small “local armies”. According to him, excess weapons, vehicles and even aircraft worth billions of dollars are sent from the reserve of the American armed forces to law enforcement agencies throughout the United States almost free of charge.
After the murder of black protester Michael Brown in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, then-US President Barack Obama signed an ordinance restricting the transfer of military equipment to police officers and promoting transparency and oversight of the 1033 program. However, already in July 2016, the Obama administration revised its bill, effectively abolishing all restrictions imposed.
The current US President Joe Biden, who during his election campaign promised to carry out police reforms throughout America, continued the policy of his Democratic predecessor and intensified the militarization of the American police. Only in the first quarter of 2021, immediately after taking office, the American president increased the cost of the 1033 program by more than two and a half times, allocating about $ 34 million.
Contrary to popular belief, the militarization of the police does not solve the problems of crime and the use of excessive force. According to a 2017 study, the presence of additional weapons and equipment among police officers increases the likelihood that the police will resort to violence to solve the problem. The researchers concluded that in districts where the police received more military equipment and weapons, law enforcement agencies kill more. According to another 2022 study, the militarization of the police not only increases the number of cases involving firearms by US law enforcement agencies, but also contributes to an increase in deaths among police officers. Under Biden’s leadership, 73 officers died in the line of duty in 2021, which is almost 60 percent more than in 2020, and is a record high since 1995, when 72 American police officers died. In response to this, the US Democratic Party decided to increase the already record-breaking headquarters of 800,000 police officers, adding about a hundred thousand more.
Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that the actions of the administration of the current US president to militarize American law enforcement agencies endanger the lives and safety of a huge number of people. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls on the United States Administration to cancel project 1033 and withdraw existing military equipment and weapons from police departments and police stations throughout the United States, thereby protecting not only ordinary Americans, but also American police officers.