The federal government has transferred around $2.2 billion worth of military gear to local police departments around the country since 2006, according to a report.
Released by the non-profit government transparency group Open the Books, the report, titled The Militarization of Local Police Departments, says the equipment includes “helicopters and airplanes, armored trucks and cars, tens of thousands of M16/M14 rifles, thousands of bayonets, mine detectors, and many other types of weapons.”
Since 1997, the Dept. of Defense’s 1033 Program has sent excess military equipment to civilian law enforcement agencies. As of 2014, 8,000 local law enforcement agencies participated in the program receiving surplus gear originally meant for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
According to the report, which is based on data compiled from Freedom of Information Act requests, items sent to park districts, forest preserves, hometown police departments, junior colleges, universities, county sheriffs, natural resource and public safety departments, and state police include:
- 7,091 trucks ($400.9 million); 625 mine-resistant vehicles (421.1 million); 471 helicopters ($158.3 million); 56 airplanes ($271.5 million); and 329 armored trucks and cars ($21.3 million)
- 83,122 M16/M14 rifles (5.56mm and 7.62mm) ($31.2 million); 8,198 pistols (.38 and .45 caliber) ($491,769); and 1,385 riot 12-gauge shotguns ($137,265)
- 18,299 night-vision sights, sniper scopes, binoculars, goggles, infrared and image magnifiers ($98.5 million); 5,518 infrared, articulated, panoramic and laser telescopes ($5.5 million)
- 866 mine detecting sets, marking kits, and probes ($3.3 million); 57 grenade launchers ($41,040)
- 5,638 bayonets ($307,769) and 36 swords and scabbards
Virginia, Arizona, Tennessee, California, and Texas all received more than $100 million worth of surplus military equipment between 2006 and 2015, but the state that received the most was Florida – which obtained over $300 million worth. Additionally, some of the notable findings in the report include:
- In California (which has some of the toughest gun laws in the country) we found 18,794 DoD transactions transferring weaponry including nearly 7,500 trades involving M16/M14 rifles. The University of California at Berkley accepted the delivery of 14 M16/M14 rifles. Yet that paled in comparison to the 1,105 M16/M14 rifles (5.56mm and 7.62mm) and two Mine-Resistant Vehicles acquired by the Los Angeles County Sheriff.
- In Florida, the state highway patrol received 1,795 M16/M14 rifles (5.56mm), plus six military-armored vehicles, three Mine Resistant Vehicles, and three Complete Combat/Assault/Tactical Wheeled Vehicles.
- In Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Police procured 500 M16/M14 rifles – which is half of what the entire state of New Jersey received in rifles. The Metro Transit police have also followed a federal procurement process to obtain 134.5 lbs. of C4, TNT, potassium chlorate, semtex (plastic explosive), and other explosives over the next nine years.
In May 2015, President Obama announced reviews of police use of military equipment after signing an executive order that went into effect this year meant to better coordinate federal support for the acquisition of certain federal equipment by state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.
The order established an interagency Law Enforcement Equipment Working Group with the stated purpose of helping to ensure law enforcement agencies adopt organizational and operational practices and standards that prevent the misuse or abuse of controlled equipment and enforce civil rights requirements resulting from receipt of federal financial assistance.
“It’s no secret the American people are distrustful of our political class, and rightly so,” one of the authors of the report, Adam Andrzejewski said. “But transparency can help restore trust by giving people the information they need to hold elected officials accountable.”