Washington, DC (TFC) – Police accountability activists thought they had achieved a victory when memos were sent to police departments demanding the return of equipment obtained through the 1033 program. After review, it’s clear that it was nothing more than a publicity stunt. The equipment that is being returned is obsolete or was never a threat to civilians. The departments can then replace the obsolete equipment with newer, more modern equipment via the same 1033 program. In other words, the entire fiasco is nothing more than a show to make police accountability activists believe they have won.
The memos demanded the return of three types of items. M-79 grenade launchers, tracked vehicles, and bayonets. At first glance, that seems wonderful. The problem is that it doesn’t address the actual concerns with police militarization and leaves a massive opening for the process to continue. Each of the items is discussed in depth below.
M-79 grenade launcher: Taking grenade launchers off of the street sounds like it would always be a win. The problem is that the M-79 is obsolete. It isn’t just a little out of date either. Design of the weapon began over 60 years ago. It was replaced as a primary grenade launcher for the US military over 40 years ago, although it does still see some use in specialized roles. For example, in the most recent Iraq war it was used to detonate IEDs. So the 40-year-old grenade launcher will be returned to the Department of Defense only to be replaced by a newer, more modern device. Since the cost of grenade launchers has fallen drastically, the department doesn’t even need to ask the military for one. They can order them online.
Tracked vehicles: These are what most people would consider tanks. They have tracks instead of tires. In most cases, the vehicle being returned will be an M113 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). The first functioning M113 prototype was built in 1957. It entered service in 1960. The vehicle will be returned to the Department of Defense and the police department can simply apply to obtain an MRAP to replace it.
Bayonets: The idea of police officers bayoneting civilians sounds terrifying. It’s never happened though. The bayonets being returned are simply standard military field knives that happen to also function as a bayonet. You can quite literally purchase them at Wal-Mart. These knives aren’t a threat to civilians. The knives could actually be useful for law enforcement during search and rescue operations, maritime situations, or any situation in which a officer might need a knife. However, because the politicians can ask for them to be returned and appear to be taking police militarization seriously, they were recalled. A politician can stand in front of a bank of microphones and indigently ask “Why do our police need to be able to bayonet someone?” They appear to care, but don’t actually have to stop the flow of armored vehicles and weapons pouring onto our streets.
The only benefit to this stunt is that there is now a precedent for the Department of Defense to recall the equipment handed out via the 1033 program. Now is not the time for activists to rest. Now is the time to push even harder to get the weapons that are maiming children off of the streets.