Bipartisan demilitarization bill introduced

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho GOP congressman Raul Labrador is teaming with a Democratic lawmaker from Georgia to move a bill designed to curb police militarization among state and local law enforcement agencies.

Labrador and U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson introduced the bill Tuesday, saying the Pentagon's "1033" program — which provides local law enforcement officers across the country with assault weapons and surplus military equipment — has gone too far.

The legislation follows a series of riots sparked by the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Images of heavily armed officers using tear gas, rubber bullets, armored Humvee tanks and assault rifles quickly resulted in increased criticism of local use of military equipment.

"The Pentagon's current surplus property program blurs that line by introducing a military model of overwhelming force in our cities and towns," Labrador said Tuesday in a statement. "Our bill would restore the focus of local law enforcement on protecting citizens and providing due process for the accused.

The Pentagon program began in 1990 to help fight drug-related crimes. It eventually was expanded to fight terrorism.

Under the proposed legislation, local law enforcement agencies would be prevented from receiving weapons such as grenade launchers, armored vehicles, weaponized drones and long-range acoustic devices that send out high-pitched noises to scatter crowds.

The bill would end the Pentagon's requirement that local police use military equipment within a year of receiving it. Labrador and Johnson said the mandate creates an incentive to use military equipment in inappropriate circumstances.

Finally, the measure would prohibit re-gifting military equipment and require the original recipient to be accountable for all resources received from the Pentagon.

"Militarizing America's main streets won't make us any safer, just more fearful and more reticent," Johnson said in a statement. "Before another small town's police force gets a $700,000 gift from the Defense Department that it can't maintain or manage, it behooves us to press pause on the Pentagon's 1033 program and revisit the merits of a militarized America."

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