WASHINGTON — The House Democrat pushing for so-called police demilitarization legislation said Wednesday that another incident like the one in Ferguson, Missouri would have to occur before politicians act on the issue.
"Unfortunately I wouldn't be surprised if we see another Ferguson or another example somewhere in this country that highlights the over militarization of local law enforcement agencies," Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson said Wednesday on a conference call with youth advocates.
Johnson vowed to reintroduce legislation regulating the Defense Department's 1033 program — the structure that transfers, free of charge, surplus military gear to local police forces that request it — in the new year. Despite bipartisan support, Johnson's existing bill collapsed as members shifted away from police militarization ahead of the 2014 midterms.
Responding to questions from BuzzFeed News, Johnson applauded the Obama administration's plan announced earlier this month to study police militarization and require more training programs and data collection by police forces that benefit from federal programs.
But Johnson said Obama could have gone farther, by using his executive authority to ban the transfer of combat gear from the 1033 program, limiting it — as Johnson's bill does — to the other, non-combat forms of surplus that make up the bulk of the transfers. Johnson took issue with the White House's focus on training while defending the programs themselves, saying that the transfers need to be banned or at least heavily regulated.
"We need to stop the flow of surplus military weaponry directly from the battlefield to the law enforcement agencies," he said.