A report found that law enforcement agencies around the country are requesting military gear to "prepare" for extreme weather.
You know the saying, “Never let a good crisis go to waste?” It appears that law enforcement agencies around the country have taken that famous Winston Churchill quote to heart. According to a report from HuffPost, police agencies have been using climate change and the looming risk of extreme weather and environmental disaster as a reason to add military equipment to their arsenal.
HuffPost obtained hundreds of requests for armored vehicles sent by local law enforcement agencies to the Defense Department in 2017 and 2018. Within those requests, a trend emerged: mentions of outlier weather events, including catastrophic storms, flooding, fires, and other devastating natural disasters. Storms are coming, the requests reasoned, and police need to be prepared to deal with them. This is a drastic departure from previous years, during which the risk of extreme weather was rarely mentioned.
So what changed? Well, for one, there was an adjustment made to the 1033 Program, which was created in 1996 and allows police to make requests for military vehicles and combat equipment, including firearms. Last year, though, Congress changed the language of the bill to dictate that “applications that request vehicles used for disaster-related emergency preparedness, such as high-water rescue vehicles, should receive the highest preference.”
HuffPost notes that while this language was recently added, the Defense Department may have been tipping off police departments even earlier. The fact that the last few years have seen police departments listing potential natural disasters as justification for their request suggests this to be the case. Invoking a recent disaster or mentioning the threat of extreme weather seems to be a rubber stamp to get an armored vehicle, and there are no checks in place to ensure that is actually what the equipment is being used for.
In fact, it seems like the cops have found plenty of other reasons to actually put the gear to use. According to HuffPost, police in Iowa City, Iowa, obtained a mine-resistant vehicle for “rescue, recovery, and transport” reasons, but in reality have used it to break up protests and serve warrants in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
Earlier this year, Congress had the opportunity to curtail the 1033 Program and stop the flow of military equipment into communities across the country. Instead, not only did a vote to restrict this transfer process fail, but Congress laid out the new groundwork for police to arm themselves under the guise of preparing for climate change. Extreme weather is getting worse and more common, and it seems police now know to mention that if they want to get their hands on equipment built for war. And in the end, it appears more likely that equipment will be rolled out to subdue climate protesters and activists trying to save the planet than to actually save people affected by climate-related disasters.