The Department of Defense 1033: Military and Local Officials' Violence

The Department of Defense 1033 program was created in order to help with state and local counterdrug and counterterrorism enforcement. It allows for the state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to request and receive military equipment for free. As a result of the events across the country that have correlated with the use of military-supplied equipment, carrying out the 1033 program has turned into a national debate. Many people argue that the more we increase militarization in this country, the more LEAs will depend on violence to help solve their problems. The 1033 program became very relevant during Barack Obama’s presidency. This was because of the militarization of police at the civilian protests in Ferguson, Missouri. The death of Michael Brown, a black teenager who was shot and killed by a white police officer, sparked protests that were eventually made worse when local policemen were provided with military weapons. The protests consisted of local policemen operating tanks, using tear gas, and assault rifles against civilian protestors. Because of this event, it led many people to believe that the implementation of the 1033 program has led to an increase of violent behavior among LEAs, especially towards minorities. It sparked the national debate of creating regulations to the 1033 program in order to ensure public safety.

Casey Delehanty, an assistant professor of Political Science at Gardner-Webb University, conducted research to prove whether or not increased militarization of LEAs leads to an increase of violent behaviors among officers. Along with the help of her colleagues, she published a research article called the Militarization and police violence: The case of the 1033 program to help justify her argument. She hypothesized “that providing military equipment does increase multiple dimensions of LEA militarization (material, cultural, organizational, and operational) and increases lead to more violent behavior.” In order to test her hypothesis, she “estimated a series of regressions that test the effect of 1033 transfers on three dependent variables meant to capture police violence: number of civilian casualties; change in the number of civilian casualties; and the number of dogs killed by the police.” After acquiring research in four different states (Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, and New Hampshire), Delehanty and her colleagues concluded that the increase of militarization leads to an increase of violence among LEAs. This raises questions about how the increase of violence in LEAs poses a threat for minorities in the country.

The main debate surrounding the topic of the 1033 program is that the increase of militarization causes an increase in violence among officers, especially towards minorities. This is because officers in the United States tend to be biased towards the black community. The United States has been well known for killing black people at excessive rates. It has been proven that black people are more likely to be the victims of unarmed police killings than any other race. The implementation of the 1033 program makes this worse. It allows for LEAs to not only abuse their power but abuse the use of the weapons being provided to them as well. Oftentimes, killing minorities or violently abusing them when it is completely unnecessary. Without regulation of the 1033 program, increased militarization leads to increased violence towards minorities in the United States.

Because there were unnecessary military weapons present at the Ferguson protests, it led many people to believe that this was a war against black people. Most of the community began to lose trust for the federal government. Communities came to view their local policeman as a threat rather than a call for safety. The Executive and legislative branches wanted to take action and tried to come up with ways that could help improve public perceptions of law enforcement. Many people argued that providing military equipment to local law enforcement agencies plays a crucial role in fighting off drug dealers, rioters, and terrorists, and eliminating the program completely could result in a threat to public safety. Rather than completely getting rid of the program, an alternative by the Obama administration was introduced. During his presidency, Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13688, Federal Support for Local Law Enforcement Acquisition. This order allowed to identify ways to help bring recommendations to improve federal support and trust. It allowed for control over the equipment being given to states. The order created two lists, a prohibited equipment list, and a controlled equipment list. The prohibited equipment prohibited states from purchasing unnecessary military weapons that may do more harm than good to the community. The controlled equipment list regulates the purchases of military weapons. States must meet certain requirements and training in order to purchase weapons. The Obama administration regulating the 1033 program helped bring back trust from the community back in the federal government.

Currently, President Donald Trump restored the 1033 program after Barack Obama regulated some of the conditions of the program. Trump and some of the community argued that the restoration of this program will help increase public safety and ensure a safer lifestyle for the people of the United States. Undoing the actions made by the Obama administration sparked another national debate. It has been proven that the implementation of the 1033 program has increased violence among officials. Being that the United States has had a history of being biased towards black people, the restoration of the program will not only continue that legacy but make it worse. The Executive Order helped restore trust within the federal government but that was stripped away when Donald Trump decided to bring back the original aspects of the program. With the restoration of the program, there will be no type of separation between the military and local officials. Officials will be more likely to turn to violence to solve their problems. Every problem begins to look like a nail when the only tool you have is a hammer.  

07 July 2022
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