Militarization of Police Departments
What is ‘militarization of police’ and the 1033 surplus program?
“Militarization of police” refers to the use of military equipment and tactics by law enforcement officers. This term has been used by media in references to the 1033 surplus program, which is a donation program of surplus military equipment to local police departments. The Eugene Police Department has received minimal equipment from the 1033 program and, in light of community concerns, is reviewing its participation.
What has been EPD’s participation the 1033 surplus program?
Prior to 2014, Eugene Police Department obtained four 1033 surplus program items through grants. These pieces of equipment were acquired at very low cost through the 1033 program. Of these items, only two remain with the department: ceremonial honor guard rifles and backpacks. Previously, the department had an HMMWV (Humvee) and a robot. These were sent back to the 1033 program.
- Ceremonial Honor Guard Rifles: Used for occasions such as award ceremonies, memorials, and civic events. There were no costs to the City to secure these items.
- Backpacks and night-vision mounts for ballistic helmets: EPD has replaced most of the helmet mounts with newer versions paid for by EPD. There was no cost to EPD for these items secured through the 1033 program; these items are at the end of their service life.
When do EPD Officers use armored and other types of equipment?
Eugene Police Department (EPD) officers are sent to respond to armed subjects and must have equipment to protect themselves and nearby community members. EPD has a responsibility to provide the safest environment for both officers and the public. As crime and criminal activity have evolved, so have the practices of those engaged in this activity. Today, many criminals are armed with advanced and extensive weaponry. There is ready access to firearms of all types, along with an increased readiness in many suspects to take the most extreme measures against responding officers.
What is the Role of SWAT and Patrol Officers in High Risk Situations?
Under specifications in Eugene Police Special General Order 1201.5, the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team responds to the following types of situations:
- Sniper incidents
- Hostage situations
- Active shooter situations
- Building/area searches for armed wanted subjects when use of SWAT would significantly increase officer and/or public safety
- Barricaded subjects who are armed or presumed to be armed with a firearm, explosive device, or other deadly weapon which might reasonably pose a threat to others if the suspect has committed a crime or s/he poses a significant threat to others
- Dignitary protection
- High-risk search/arrest warrant service within department policies
The Eugene SWAT team activations are comprised mostly of high-risk search warrant service or barricaded subject situations. Other missions might include area searches or safely removing armed suspects out of cars.
What equipment could be considered “militarized” and when are they used?
Eugene Police has a Lenco Bearcat (purchased 2006) armored vehicle and a Lenco Bearcat G2 (newer, updated version purchased with replacement funds in April 2020). The Bearcat is defensive in nature, allowing officers to enter higher risk zones on calls where responding officers may be targeted. Neither vehicle is equipped with any type of offensive weapon system. The vehicles transport officers, deliver equipment, and are used in rescue situations. Following an outbreak of violence in Eugene’s downtown on May 29, 2020, EPD used the Bearcat vehicle to help protect police who were responding to disperse large crowds while attempting to limit the possibility of further damage to property downtown.
The SWAT Team and the Patrol Division have access to these vehicles when they respond to dangerous situations. When one of these vehicles is used by Patrol, there is a mandatory notification of the SWAT commander so s/he can assess the situation to ensure the use of the vehicle is appropriate and to ascertain whether SWAT should be involved in some form. Patrol uses this vehicle primarily to enter a potentially dangerous zone to hail the suspect(s) in an attempt to resolve the situation peacefully and without force. These vehicles are rarely used, on average 6-8 times per year.
The most frequent time these vehicles are seen in the community is when SWAT conducts its twice monthly training. The vehicles are used to transport SWAT officers and conduct training operations.