Officials confirm the need for Ratcliffe’s legislation to protect law enforcement access to life-saving equipment
WASHINGTON – Law enforcement officials from across the country confirmed the need for Rep. John Ratcliffe’s (R-Texas) legislation to protect access to life-saving defense equipment today before the House Homeland Security Committee. The exchange occurred in a hearing focused on the importance of strengthening preparedness, prevention and response efforts of local law enforcement officials in preventing terrorist and lone wolf attacks.
In the hearing, witnesses described a variety of situations in which surplus defense equipment is critical to state and local police departments’ response efforts, including high-water flood rescues and hours-long standoffs with armed attackers. They then expressed serious concern about changes pursuant to an Executive Order issued last year that restricted access to a key federal program – the “1033 Program” – which transfers certain federal defense surplus equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael J. Bouchard, who testified on behalf of the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, highlighted the dangers posed by the administration’s actions to limit the 1033 Program and confirmed his support for reversing this decision.
“We have – pretty much across the board – seen the 1033 extremely helpful in assisting law enforcement in challenging days and times. I think we saw real-time evidence of that in San Bernardino with the use of armored vehicles and tactical equipment to save lives. The day that was playing out, we received an order from Washington to return our track vehicle – that day. And it was loaded on a flatbed and the intent was to blow it up,” Bouchard said.
“Based on the answer that you just gave me, would you agree with me that the president’s decision to eliminate [access to] this program is jeopardizing the safety and well-being of your officers?” Ratcliffe asked.
“I certainly would agree with that statement. In fact, I said that after San Bernardino, the sheriff – a friend of mine – said they came prepared, and America’s less prepared as we sent back our armored vehicles that same day,” Bouchard said.
Ratcliffe, who introduced the Protecting Lives Using Surplus (PLUS) Equipment Act of 2016 (H.R. 4880) earlier this year to stop the president’s unilateral changes to restrict access to the 1033 Program, said the witnesses’ testimony further reinforced the pressing need to restore access to the life-saving equipment it provides.
“Today’s hearing makes it abundantly clear that the president’s decision to unilaterally cut access to potentially life-saving equipment jeopardizes not only the safety of our state and local officers themselves, but also the communities that they bravely protect. This politically driven, knee-jerk reaction must be reversed, and I’m grateful for this legislation’s strong support by Members of Congress all across the country. Now, more than ever, we must stand behind our law enforcement officers and their ongoing commitment to our protection.”