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July 21, 2022

Pressley, Schatz, Johnson Lead Call for Biden Administration to End Transfer of Military Weapons to Local Police

“Ending police militarization will help to make our communities safer.”

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Congressman Henry C. “Hank” Johnson (GA-04) led 19 of their colleagues in a letter urging the Biden Administration to end the transfer of military weapons to local law enforcement through administrative action. The lawmakers’ letter follows President Biden’s May executive order on police reform, in which the administration committed to studying the impact of these weapons transfers before determining whether to prohibit them outright.

“Militarized law enforcement increases the prevalence of police violence without making our communities safer,” the lawmakers wrote to the federal agencies. “In addition, the militarization of law enforcement creates a culture and a mindset contrary to the mission of the police—to protect and serve.”

The lawmakers noted the disproportionate impact police militarization has on Black, brown, and other communities of color, and asked the agencies to provide an update on the implementation of President Biden’s police reform executive order.

“When law enforcement has access to military equipment, they are more likely to use it, rather than other more appropriate and traditional law enforcement tools,” the lawmakers continued. “Furthermore, the negative effects of police militarization disproportionately affects communities of color…Ending police militarization will help to make our communities safer.”

The letter was signed by Representatives Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), André Carson (IN-07), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Karen Bass (CA-37), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Mark Pocan (WI-02) and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

The letter was supported by: the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Arab American Institute, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Beyond the Bomb, Bridges Faith Initiative, Defending Rights & Dissent, Drug Policy Alliance, Global Zero, Government Information Watch, Hispanic Federation, Human Rights First, MoveOn, MPower Change, Muslims for Just Futures, National Education Association, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Oxfam America, Peace Action, Progressive Democrats of America, Rethinking Foreign Policy, Secure Families Initiative, US Council of Muslim Organization (USCMO), Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center, Women for Weapons Trade Transparency, Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).

Earlier this year, Rep. Pressley re-introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would halt the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which allows for the transfer of military equipment to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement. She previously introduced the amendment in 2021.

Throughout her time in Congress, Rep. Pressley has championed legislation to reform an unjust criminal legal system and address police brutality and systemic racism.

  • In 2019, Rep. Pressley introduced the People’s Justice Guarantee, calls for an end to the 1033 program among other policy recommendations necessary to reimagine our criminal legal system. Additionally, Rep. Pressley cosponsored a series of amendments related to the 1033 program, including Rep. Velasquez’s amendment to eliminate the program and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment to add to the prohibited list of military equipment.
  • In May 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, Rep. Pressley, along with Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Karen Bass (CA-37), and Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), introduced a resolution to condemn police brutality, racial profiling and the excessive use of force.
  • In December 2020, Rep. Pressley called on passage of police reform legislation by the Massachusetts state lawmakers. In an op-ed published in the Boston Globe, Congresswoman Pressley and Boston City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo called on lawmakers to end qualified immunity.

To read the full letter, click here.