The 1122 and 1033 Programs: Obfuscation enables Police Militarization
By Lillian Mauldin
The violence done to communities by U.S. police forces has gained significant and widespread attention in recent years. As the public demands accountability and remediation for this violence, lawmakers have introduced legislation and made efforts to increase oversight and reduce harm.
However, police militarization and its equipment flows remain supporting pillars of this violence. Federal agencies and private suppliers continue to serve as conduits for the transfer of excess and discounted military equipment to police forces. Amnesty International USA opposes these transfers because they put civilians at risk of harm from excessive force. The 1033 Program — named for the section that created it in the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) — allows for the transfer of surplus US military equipment to US law enforcement agencies and thereby enables gross overuse of such equipment against civilians. However, the 1033 Program is only one program that allows local and state agencies to obtain equipment with the federal government’s help.
The 1122 Program, which was created in 1994 and expanded in 2009, is managed by the Defense Logistics Agency, the Department of the Army, and the General Services Administration. As described by the Defense Logistics Agency, “The 1122 Program enables state and local governments to take advantage of the discounts available to the federal government due to its large-volume purchases.” In terms of usage, law enforcement agencies are authorized to purchase equipment under the 1122 Program for “counter drug, homeland security, and emergency response operations.”
Currently, there is no centralized database of 1122 program purchases, and data and information on the program remains sparse due to inconsistent reporting requirements at the state and national levels. This is because the NDAA does not require a centralized process of archiving this data. However, in 2022, Women for Weapons Trade Transparency investigated the 1122 Program and revealed over $42 million of decentralized, never-before-seen data on purchases through the program. The investigation also revealed a lack of agency accountability for tracking purchases under the 1122 Program. There is also no audit process in place for articles transferred through this program. Without internal tracking or auditing, the 1122 Program fails to create safeguards to protect against improper use of equipment obtained through it. This demonstrates the grave need for a serious examination of the harms done by this program and by other equipment transfer programs which contribute to the militarization of police.
U.S. police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets and deployed drones and helicopters to surveil and disperse protests. The rise of police militarization in the United States, especially in response to protestors, reflects a larger global pattern of security forces increasing the amount of force they use, particularly during the policing of protests. Amnesty International’s “Protect the Protest” research and accompanying campaign revealed an alarming international “trend towards the militarisation of state responses to protests, including the use of armed forces and military equipment.” However, this misuse of such equipment is not limited to public assemblies and often find their way into everyday interactions between law enforcement and the public. In February, United Nations experts expressed concern after the Los Angeles Police Department killed Keenan Anderson and the Memphis Police Department killed Tyre Nichols the month prior. Morris Tidball-Binz, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, noted: “The use of less-lethal weapons continues to raise serious concerns when it comes to States’ obligation to protect the right to life and the right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment. Such weapons can cause death, serious body injuries and permanent disability.” The militarization of police inherently enables excessive use of force because military style equipment is excessive and a disproportionate response to protestors and the public by its nature. We should not be surprised when the result of tangibly generating militarization is militarism in practice.
Contrary to how policing commonly occurs in practice, police officers “have a duty to enable protests, tolerate disruption to a large degree, and protect protesters [and civilians] from violence and other interference with their rights.” But internationally, military-grade equipment and less lethal weapons are routinely used by police in ways that violate human rights and suppress free speech. Over the last decade, at least 4800 people globally were killed by police as a result of crowd control tactics that met the definition of torture or other ill-treatment. Simultaneously, national military forces killing protestors and civilians internationally is a common occurrence. Around the world, including in the United States, police and militaries are functioning with increasing similarities. Amnesty International USA supports the abolition of the 1033 and 1122 Programs. Stopping the flows of excess military equipment to police is an important step to prevent further violence, human and civil rights violations, and abuse of power.