Ending the 1033 Program: How local communities can take military weaponry out of the hands of police
In an effort to curtail police militarism, anti-war group Win Without War on April 29 released an activist guide titled Stop Militarizing Our Communities: 5 Things You Need to Know About the 1033 Program.
The activist guide was authored by Tanaya Sardesai, a student at Pomona College and a former intern at Win Without War, and centers on the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, which is responsible for supplying military weaponry to domestic law enforcement.
“Foreign policy and domestic policy are intertwined,” said Sardesai. “Violence committed against communities of color abroad fuels violence against communities of color at home. We must end state violence and knee-jerk militarism, wherever it occurs. Ending the 1033 program is a small but necessary step toward that.”
The 1033 program, also referred to as the Law Enforcement Support Office Program, is characterized by Win Without War as a byproduct of colossal U.S. Pentagon budget and a hyper-militarized foreign policy that perpetuates ongoing conflicts around the world.
“Militarism abroad and militarism at home are inseparable,” explained the group in a statement. “One of the key ways our endless wars have blown back to exacerbate violence and undermine human security in the United States is through the DoD’s 1033 program.”
The guide elucidates the correlation between U.S. foreign policy and police militarization and concludes both systems are designed to sustain weapon manufacturers profits, the prison system, and the defense industry—at the expense of the working class and marginalized communities.
According to the guide, the 1033 program provides free military-grade weapons to local police officers and incentivizes their use by contractually requiring the weapons be used within a year or returned to the federal government. There is little oversight required under 1033 contracts and equipment often goes missing or is used improperly without accountability.
Police officers do not receive mandatory federal training under the program, leaving local agencies to train weapon recipients with little guidance.
“This further reinforces the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that is responsible for such devastation around the world,” explains the guide. “A lack of instruction exacerbates these issues by imbuing officers with the confidence to use deadly weapons without training.”
Sardesai noted that militarization has also expanded its reach to the U.S. education system, as school districts across the country have received millions of dollars of equipment from the 1033 program, including firearms, utility trucks, and rifles.
In 2017, the Government Accountability Office created a fictitious law enforcement agency and was able to obtain $1,200,000 worth of military gear from the 1033 program, suggesting a grossly inadequate vetting system.
In response to these issues, grassroots organizations are mobilizing around the U.S. to end the 1033 program and small legislative strides are being made. The FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision to provide more oversight of the 1033 program and limit particular weapons from being used by police forces. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the House passed in March 2021, included a section that would limit the 1033 program.
“This must only be the beginning,” said Win Without War. “The Senate must act now. President Biden must put a moratorium on the 1033 program.”