Gun Violence & Police militarization
During the last few decades local police forces have become increasingly militarized. The dangers of distributing military grade weapons to local law enforcement was exposed during the police response to protestors in Ferguson after the murder of Michael Brown in 2014. Since 1988, under the Department of Defense Excess Property 1033 grant program, more than $4 billion in military equipment has been issues to local police departments, and colleges and universities across the country.
Police militarization is not limited to the 1033 program. It is part of a larger trend of increasingly large and war-like police forces. There is a need to engage in substantive debates about community safety, the militarization of police, and the prevalence of SWAT teams. In the spring of 2015, the Obama administration put forth an executive order that helps to mitigate the optics of a militarized police force, but leaves massive loopholes for local enforcement. For example, it will only address the issue of campus police militarization if university presidents collectively demand it.
Over the past few years, we have seen military grade equipment used in our own backyards--specifically on Black and Brown people in the United States. This equipment ranges from nuts and bolts for everyday repairs in the office and in automobiles, to Grande launchers that have been fitted for tear gas canisters and 19 ton mine resistant armored trucks. There is little transparency in which police departments and campuses receive what equipment, and there is even less information that is available that conveys a reason why a police and campus safety department may need such equipment.
But even as police officers are saying they are trying to prevent shootings on campus, some states are easing restrictions of guns on campus. At least 16 states are considering whether to allow concealed weapons on college campuses.
Our Policing Equity and Decriminalization project aims to provide solutions and strategies for demilitarizing local law enforcement on and off college campuses, inspire greater transparency around the flow of weapons to local police departments, and create greater measures of accountability for law enforcement.