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Friday, September 19, 2014

SENATOR RAND PAUL CALLS FOR DE-MILITARIZING U.S. POLICE FORCES: UNNECESSARY FORCE

Sep 9, 2014
Sen. Rand Paul today attended the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing regarding the oversight of federal programs for equipping state and local law enforcement agencies. A video and transcript of Sen. Paul's statements can be found below.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: I think many of us were horrified by some of the images that came out of Ferguson.

We were horrified by seeing an unarmed man with his hands over his head being confronted by an armored personnel carrier. We're horrified by seeing an unarmed man with his hands over his head being confronted by a man with a drawn assault weapon. We're horrified by images of tear gas being shot into the yards of people's personal homes who were protesting.

One of the fundamental things about America is dissent, and the ability to have dissent. It needs to be peaceful. There needs to be repercussions for those who do not act in a peaceful way.

But confronting those with armored personnel carriers is thoroughly un-American and for 150 years, we've had rules separating the military, keeping the military out of policing affairs. But you sort of obscure that separation if you allow the police to become the military.

In FEMA's authorized equipment list there's actually written descriptions for how the equipment should be used and it says it's specifically not supposed to be used for riot suppression. Mr. Kamoie, is that true, that it's not supposed to be used for riot suppression? And how do you plan on policing that since the images clearly show us large pieces of equipment that were bought with your grants used in that riot suppression, or protest suppression rather?

MR. BRIAN KAMOIE: Sen. Paul, that is accurate. The categories of personal protective equipment that include helmets, ear and eye protection, ballistics, personal protective equipment. There's a prohibition in the authorized equipment list not to be used for riot suppression.

RP: What will you do about it?

BK: We're going to follow the lead of the Department of Justice's investigation about the facts. We're going to work with the state of Missouri to determine what pieces of equipment were grant funded. And then we have a range of remedies available to us should there be any finding of noncompliance with those requirements. Those include everything from corrective action plans to ensure it doesn't happen again, recoupment of funds.

So, we'll look closely at the facts, but we're going to allow the investigation to run its course and determine what the appropriate remedy is.

RP: But, it gets back to the whole question. If you're a police force anywhere in the country from Dundee, Michigan, of 3900, which has an MRAP (mine-resistance ambush protection) to 25 other cities under 25,000 have MRAP's, they think these are for riot suppression. Well, I don't know what they think they're for in a city of 3900 people.

But, many of the police forces think this is what the equipment is good for, is riot suppression in a big city, urban area. You're specifically instructing that it's not for that.

We've talked about we've had maybe two instances of terrorism. We spend billions and billions of dollars and maybe two instances of terrorism. So I think by supplying all of this free equipment, much of which is, frankly, inappropriate, really shouldn't be on anybody's list of authorized equipment.

Mr. Estevez, in the NPR investigation of 1033 program they list that 12,000 bayonets have been given out. What purpose are bayonets being given out for?

HON. ALAN ESTEVEZ: Senator, bayonets are available under the program. I can't answer what a local police force would need a bayonet for.

RP: I can give you an answer: None. So, what's President Obama's Administration's position on handing out bayonets to the police force? It's on your list. You guys create the list. Are you going to take it off the list or are we going to keep doing it?

AE: We're going to look at what we're providing under the Administration's review of all these programs.

RP: So it's unclear at this point whether President Obama approves of 12,000 bayonets being given out? I would think you could make that decision last week.

AE: I think we need to review all the equipment that we're providing, Senator. We, the Department of Defense, do not push any of this equipment on any police force. The states decide what they need.

RP: My understanding is that you have the ability to decide what equipment is given out and what equipment is not given out.

If you decided tomorrow, if President Obama decided tomorrow that mine-resistance ambush protection 20-ton vehicles are not appropriate for cities in the United States, he could decide tomorrow to take it off the list.

You could decide this tomorrow. My question is, what is the Administration's opinion on giving out mine-resistant ambush protection 20-ton vehicles to towns across America? Are you for it or against it?

AE: Obviously, we do it Senator. We're going to look at that. I can also say we can give you anecdotes for mine-resistance ambush vehicles have protected police forces in shootouts.

RP: We've been told they're only supposed to be used for terrorism, right? Isn't that what the rule is?

AE: Our rule is for counter-drug, which could have been the shootout. I would have to look at the incident. Counter-narcotic. Counter-terrorism.

RP: I guess the point I wish to make is that these are fairly simple problems and common sense applied years ago years ago. You know, we could have fixed these.

We're going to maybe fix them, although I have my doubts because I've seen rarely anything fixed in government. I would say we're now responding to a tragic circumstance, you know, in Ferguson to do this.

But, I think that, I find these decisions to be very easy to make. You just shouldn't be giving out mine-resistant vehicles. Bayonets, there's no excuse. I don't know why we have to get together and have a study for months to decide bayonets are inappropriate to be given out. I can't imagine any use for a bayonet in an urban setting. Really, it's gotten out of control and this is largely been something that the militarization of police is something that has gotten so far out of control, and we've allowed it to descend along with not a great protection of our civil liberties as well. So, you know, we say we're going to do this. It's okay if it's for drugs. Well, look at the instances of what have happened in recent times.

The instance in Georgia, just a couple months ago, of an infant in a crib getting a percussion grenade thrown in through a window in a no-knock raid. Turns out the infant, obviously, wasn't involved in the drug trade, but neither was the infant's family. Happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. No one has even been indicted on this.

So, really, this is crazy, out of control. Giving military equipment and with the breakdown of the whole idea of due process of no-knock raids and not having judges issue warrants anymore, you can see how this gets out of control and people are very, very concerned with what is going on here.

And I see the response so far to be lack luster and I hope you will do a more complete job of trying to fix this. Thank you.