$4.2 Billion in Military Hardware Donations Fuels Militarization of U.S. Police Forces

All Gov – by Danny Biederman, Noel Brinkerhoff

From major metropolises to small towns, America’s police forces increasingly resemble military units, thanks in part to billions of dollars in free equipment from the Pentagon.

The giveaways to date are valued at $4.2 billion, which the Department of Defense began distributing after Congress adopted legislation in 1997 authorizing the little-known 1033 Program. It appeared in fine print buried inside the National Defense Authorization Act (pdf).  

In 2012 alone, the Pentagon gave away a record $546 million in surplus military hardware to municipal law enforcement agencies.

The program’s expansion in recent years has been attributed to sequestration budget cuts, post-9/11 fears, and excess equipment after winding down two wars.

Police have received not only assault rifles and grenade launchers for use by SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, but also armored vehicles and even tanks. Many of the weapon donations far exceed law enforcement needs in towns with relatively small populations.

In South Carolina, the sheriff of Richland County acquired a tank (dubbed “the Peacemaker) with 360-degree rotating machine gun turrets.

In Jefferson County in upstate New York, the sheriff’s department guarding a community of about 120,000 people now has a 20-ton Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, which was developed for the U.S. military to survive roadside bomb attacks. It was given to the county sheriff by the Pentagon.

The billion-dollar donations don’t include the $34 billion in “terrorism grants” that the Department of Homeland Security has handed out to local polices forces to arm themselves with high-powered weaponry.

Some of this military equipment has been on display by police during the recent Boston post-bombing lockdown and operations against Occupy Wall Street demonstrators.

In 2012, scandal disrupted the program when an investigation conducted by the Arizona Republic found that the Pinal County Sheriff’s Department had not maintained control of the military weaponry it had acquired from the Pentagon. Evidence surfaced that the Sheriff’s office had given some of the equipment to non-police agencies and was planning to sell other military gear at auction.

The Pentagon responded by temporarily shutting down the program and requesting that all law enforcement agencies that had received donations provide an accounting of their holdings.

The 1033 program has no oversight and has never been audited, according to several media reports.

-Danny Biederman, Noel Brinkerhoff


5 thoughts on “$4.2 Billion in Military Hardware Donations Fuels Militarization of U.S. Police Forces

  1. We can also take it from them when all hell breaks loose. This can be a good thing. Now it belongs to us.

    After all, we paid for it.

  2. It’s amazing how they couldn’t just sell it to the scrap heap and give the money back to the taxpayers.

    Nah! Why would they do that? Giving it to local police to abuse We the people is so much more productive.

    Sick bastards!

  3. The heavily armored vehicle recently acquired by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department was spotted in the city of Watertown on Thursday afternoon.
    The $600,000, 20-ton vehicle was provided to the county through a program that distributes excess government property to law enforcement agencies.EXCESS?
    Estimates of the annual maintenance costs for the vehicle varied but were pegged at $500 a year by County Highway Superintendent James L. Lawrence Jr.

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