Congressman Cleaver and Congressman Clay Applaud President Obama’s Decision to Limit Military Hardware Distributed to Police

May 18, 2015
Press Release

Today, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II and Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay applauded President Obama’s decision to curtail the distribution of some forms of military-style equipment and to add stricter controls on other transfers.  After months of study, the White House Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group Report released a list of military hardware that local law enforcement will be prohibited from securing with federal funds or from federal agencies.

“Our local police officers and law enforcement deserve respect, and our first responders deserve the best tools and training available to protect and serve our communities,” said Congressman Cleaver. “That doesn’t mean Main Street should be filled with tear gas, sound cannons, MRAPs, or other weapons of war. My colleagues and I have worked for almost a year now to spur a fundamental shift in local law enforcement, away from military-style response and toward a community-based, proportionate-response style of policing. Today’s announcement is progress for this effort, and for our communities. We must do all we can to give local law enforcement the right tools, proper training, and appropriate techniques they need to do keep our streets safe and secure.”

“I want to thank President Obama for acting on several of the key issues that Congressman Cleaver and I raised with former Secretary of Defense Hagel when we met with him at the Pentagon just days after the unrest began last summer in Ferguson,” said Congressman Clay. “I witnessed first-hand, high-powered sniper rifles with night scopes being pointed at my constituents who were peacefully exercising their constitutional rights.   That kind of police militarization is harmful and it deepens the already wide gulf of mistrust that exists between communities of color and some local law enforcement agencies.  I am proud to cosponsor new legislation with Mr. Cleaver and others to codify these changes made by executive order into federal law.”

In August of 2014, Congressman Cleaver and Congressman Clay authored a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel calling for a review of the 1033 program. Additionally, both Congressman Cleaver and Congressman Clay met with Secretary Hagel to discuss in depth the militarization of local law enforcement. The conversation, which was productive and positive, addressed urgent concerns about the militarization of local law enforcement agencies through the distribution of surplus Department of Defense equipment via the 1033 Program. In December of 2014, President Obama included, as examples, many of the recommendations and strategies the Members put forth last August: ensuring that all equipment available for acquisition by law enforcement agencies has a legitimate civilian law enforcement purpose; including training requirements that address appropriate use and deployment of equipment; broadening transparency of the 1033 and other agency equipment repurpose programs; and requiring police officers to wear body cameras.

Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee's Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, and also a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. A high-resolution photo of Congressman Cleaver is available here.