February 26, 2015
RE: Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition Program
Dear Assistant Secretary Fong:
The National Asian Peace Officers Association (NAPOA) is pleased to provide our thoughts and recommendations regarding the Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition Program under the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997. NAPOA is in favor of the program as it provides local law enforcement agencies with the equipment and resources necessary to defend and protect our communities without incurring the high-cost associated with the procurement of certain military equipment, including armored vehicles and personnel weapons.
NAPOA has two major concerns:
Training Requirements; and, Oversight and representation on the respective State Governor’s panel to review the deployment and use of equipment under Section 1122 of the National Defense Authorization Act.
As reflected in the initial recommendations of the Working Group assembled under President Obama’s Directive, Section D. The Community Policing Model indicates concern by some of the stakeholders that lack of training may result in a “show of force” that mirrors military operations. Under this acquisition program there is no requirement for training on the use of military vehicles and weapons. In certain communities that do not possess a training department or full-time training personnel, military training personnel may be called upon to provide the training on the use of the equipment and weapons, as well as tactics. In these scenarios, officers may have difficulty distinguishing between appropriate military versus civilian use of the equipment. This would be most disconcerting, especially in the use of automatic weapons in the hands of untrained law enforcement officers.
Many recent immigrants within Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities around the country view police agencies and departments with suspicion. The countries from which these immigrants arrived may not have had a distinct civilian law enforcement component that was separate from an authoritarian military presence. As a result, it would be imperative to ensure that AAPI representatives be allowed to provide their input and recommendations at the training stage and at the respective State Governors’ level.
Training at the local agency and department levels may be accomplished through a mandated program that requires some type of sensitivity training that highlights the unique concerns that face AAPI’s in the community. NAPOA’s sworn and retired AAPI law enforcement members, many of whom are immigrants to our country, may assist in raising officer awareness of these concerns.
With respect to the Governors’ State Point of Contact (SPOC), AAPI’s are having a greater impact on the political process and making local elected officials aware of their community concerns. Therefore, it will be up to AAPI organizations and associations like NAPOA to meet with state governors and elected officials to make our concerns known as it impacts important policy decisions such as this Law Enforcement Equipment Acquisition Program.
Thanks again for this opportunity to provide you with NAPOA’s concerns regarding this important subject.
Thomas G. Masters
National Asian Peace Officers’ Association