New Brunswick Continues in Controversial Police Militarization Program

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Late last year, the New Brunswick City Council voted to approve a resolution for the New Brunswick Police Department’s continued participation in the US Department of Defense’s “1033 Program.”

Though it has been a while since the department acquired anything through the controversial program, the Council unanimously decided to continue participating for another year.

The 1033 program is a federal initiative created by Congress in 1997 that has since transferred 80,000 rifles, 12,000 bayonets, 4,000 combat knives, nearly 500 “bomb detonator robots,” 50 airplanes, “night-vision sniper scopes,” and many more items to local police across the country.

In 2015, New Brunswick Today reported that city police added a second mobile precinct to the department’s fleet that once served as a “radio/communications vehicle” for the US military.

When asked what items were received from the Department of Defense, NBPD Public Information Officer JT Miller told this reporter that the department has not received or requested any items throughout 2020.

In the December 16 City Council meeting, Miller told the Council: “There are no plans to get anything in the near future. But if equipment comes up that we do need, we will search the database to see what becomes available. But in the near future, there is nothing on the horizon that we’re looking for.”

According to 1033 Watch, between 2014 and 2016, NBPD accepted roughly $90,000 worth of supplies from the US Department of Defense.

These supplies include three unmanned ground vehicles (valued at $10,000 each), two infrared receivers ($5,322 each), and three non-inverting infrared telescopes ($5,000 each).

Unmanned Ground Vehicle at Joint Base San Antonio

While “unmanned ground vehicles” may sound threatening, Miller assures the public they are not. Before being promoted to Deputy Director, then-Captain Miller wrote in an email to this reporter: “The three (3) unmanned ground vehicles you reference are essentially well-made remote control cars, similar to a toy car you may purchase for a child on his or her birthday.”

“They are approximately 2 feet long and 2 feet wide and 12 inches tall.  They have a small arm attached which can hold a camera,” Miller continued. “The three vehicles were acquired at no cost to the police department and their intended purpose would be to search a building when unknown hazards exist.  The remote control vehicle can enter a structure with an attached camera and allow visual inspection without putting an officer’s safety in jeopardy”

The 1033 program was started in part due to the US government’s “War on Drugs.”  The hypothesis was simple: militarizing police can decrease crime and protect police officers.

New research studies have shown that this hypothesis has not proved correct: “The most important thing for policy makers and the public to know is that you can’t justify giving surplus military equipment to police departments on the grounds it will lead to a reduction in crime,” Emory University Professor Tom Clark said. “There is no evidence for that.” 

Opponents of the program say that police militarization leads to a worsening of the police-citizen relationship, with police seeing the citizens they serve differently, and citizens seeing the police as more threatening.

According to PBS News, “Police militarization neither reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed, according to a study of 9,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S.”

 

Reporter at New Brunswick Today | jlevin@nb.today

Jason Levin is an English major at Rutgers University.  Outside of school, he teaches yoga, writes stories, and eats too much sushi. You can find out more at https://jason.dog.