Senator Gill Requests State Procedures On Transfer of Military Equipment to Local Law Enforcement

As President Pro Temp, Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex/Passaic) overseeing a debate on the Senate floor.

Calls for Review of State’s Role in Program

 TRENTON – Senator Nia H. Gill today sent a letter to Acting Attorney General John Hoffman requesting information on the state’s involvement in overseeing the transfer of military equipment from the federal government to local law enforcement in New Jersey.

The request comes after the use of armored tanks by police on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, which has brought increased scrutiny to a program that provides military equipment to local law enforcement nationwide. Recent published reports – in The New York Times and today in the Asbury Park Press – indicate that millions of dollars worth of military equipment has been transferred to local law enforcement agencies in New Jersey under the Defense Department’s 1033 program. The equipment received by New Jersey departments ranges from first aid kits and office supplies, to armored vehicles, military rifles and a grenade launcher, according to reports.

Senator Gill has requested information from the Attorney General’s office on the state’s processes and procedures concerning the receipt of federal military equipment by local law enforcement in New Jersey, and called for a review of the state’s role in the program.

“I recognize that some of the supplies provided under the program may be useful to local departments; however, the equipment transferred includes armored vehicles, a grenade launcher and military-style assault weapons. This is equipment that appears suitable for war zones, not for our neighborhood streets,” wrote Senator Gill. “I absolutely believe that we must review the state’s role in administrating the 1033 program, and I know you will agree that any use of this equipment must be carried out with extreme caution and strict oversight. I respectfully request that you provide information on the state’s processes and procedures concerning the receipt of federal military equipment by local law enforcement in New Jersey.”

The Senator’s letter to Acting Attorney General Hoffman is below:

 

August 22, 2014

 

 

The Honorable John J. Hoffman

Acting Attorney General of New Jersey
Richard J Hughes Justice Complex
25 Market Street, Box 080
Trenton, NJ08625-008

 

Dear Attorney General Hoffman:

 

The recent tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, and the police response to demonstrations following the incident has captured the attention of the country and caused great concern nationwide. In the days since the shooting of Michael Brown, violent clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement in Ferguson have ensued. The deployment of tanks on the streets of Ferguson and the use of other military-style equipment by law enforcement in the area may have served to escalate the situation.

I am encouraged that the people of Ferguson this week finally experienced several nights of calm. The U.S. Attorney General’s presence, along with the efforts of community leaders and clergy, undoubtedly helped to ease tensions in the city. The immediate local need is to ensure that calm remains and no further tragedies occur. However, it is important that we, as a state and a nation, reflect on what has transpired and determine the lessons that can be learned.

A recent report in the New York Times showed that thousands of surplus military vehicles and other equipment has been delivered to state and local law enforcement across the country through the Defense Department’s 1033 program. The report also found that military equipment has been delivered to local law enforcement in New Jersey. In addition, the Asbury Park Press today reported that the Defense Department has issued $8.8 million in tactical equipment to New Jersey since 2006. I recognize that some of the supplies provided under the program may be useful to local departments; however, the equipment transferred includes armored vehicles, a grenade launcher and military-style assault weapons. This is equipment that appears suitable for war zones, not for our neighborhood streets.

I absolutely believe that we must review the state’s role in administrating the 1033 program, and I know you will agree that any use of this equipment must be carried out with extreme caution and strict oversight. I respectfully request that you provide information on the state’s processes and procedures concerning the receipt of federal military equipment by local law enforcement in New Jersey. What, if any, involvement does the state have in reviewing requests from local law enforcement for surplus military equipment from the federal government? Does the state have a role in overseeing the delivery and receipt of the equipment by counties and municipalities in New Jersey? Does the state track where the equipment is held in New Jersey? In addition, what, if any, is the state’s role in permitting the deployment of this equipment by local law enforcement in the state? And finally, does the state require or provide training to local law enforcement once the equipment is received?

Thank you for your prompt response to this inquiry. I may be reached at any time should you have any questions regarding this request.

 

Sincerely,

Senator Nia H. Gill