Trump Administration to Allow School Police Departments Renewed Access to Free Military-grade Weapons

As feared, the Trump Administration has announced that it will end an Obama Executive Order (EO) which placed some limits on a program that distributed free military equipment to local police departments, including those in school districts (known as the 1033 Program).

The 1033 Program came into the national spotlight following the heavily militarized police response to protesters in Ferguson, MO. As people across the country watched police in armored tanks driving through residential neighborhoods, many wondered where this kind of equipment came from.

After pressure was put on the Obama Administration to end the program, he released an Executive Order placing some limits on the program but keeping it largely intact. A key aspect of Obama’s Executive Order, however, was that this equipment could no longer go to police departments that solely serve K-12 school districts – which will be allowed again under this Trump Administration reversal.

Some of the other moderate restrictions placed by the Obama Executive Order which will no longer be in effect include: 1) a ban on “Tracked Armored Vehicles, Bayonets, Grenade Launchers, Large Caliber Weapons and Ammunition” and 2) a requirement of additional information and certification for police departments requesting “Wheeled Armored or Tactical Vehicles, Specialized Firearms and Ammunition, Explosives and Pyrotechnics, Riot Equipment”.

As a national coalition of students, parents, educators, organizers and advocates dedicated to ending the school-to-prison pipeline, the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) has been publicly calling for a full end to this program, including a requirement to return the equipment that was provided so it could no longer be a threat to communities. The Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department was one of those departments serving K-12 students that received weapons prior to Obama’s Executive Order. DSC member Labor Community Strategy Center won a campaign to have LAUSD return the weapons they had received (not a requirement in the EO), and publically apologize for participating in the program.

Trump’s plan to rescind Obama’s Executive Order was announced at a conference of the Fraternal Order of Police on Monday. The Fraternal Order of Police listed rescinding the Executive Order as their first priority for Trump’s first 100 days in office. This action by the Trump Administration represents a clear rejection of any attempt to regulate local law enforcement’s access to weapons. Furthermore, they provided no clear evidence of how the Executive Order, which was in effect for less than 2 years, had a negative impact on local law enforcement.

We continue to call for an end to the entire 1033 Program as well as any other federal programs that place military weapons in the hands of local police departments for use against community members. This kind of program further erodes trust and threatens lives, placing dangerous weapons created for war onto the streets of our communities.

The Strategy Center’s campaign in Los Angeles went far beyond the limited reforms of President Obama’s Executive Order and won demands that were not required or mandated—the complete return of the weapons and an apology from the Los Angeles School Police Department to the Strategy Center and community. The 1033 Program as it exists does not mandate local police departments to apply for or receive these military weapons nor does it preclude them from voluntarily returning them.

We urge all DSC members and civil rights advocates and organizers to initiate their own campaigns to end the militarization of Black and Latino communities with weapons from the 1033 Program and many other sources of weapons of lethal force against civilians and community residents.