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

Saturday, October 12, 2013
By Paul Martin

October 12, 2013

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.

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