The Pentagon program that sends excess military equipment to police across the country has been under scrutiny since August, when civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., came to a head and the tactics of police there came under fire by civil rights advocates. But the controversy appears to have prompted change: after years of declining to do so, the Defense Department has released a detailed breakdown of what it has supplied to police departments.
The results range from the mundane (battery chargers), to the powerful (armored mine-resistant vehicles), to the surprising (trumpets?). It also includes everything from helicopters to robots designed to help bomb squads.
The Pentagon’s Excess Property Program, sometimes known as the 1033 Program, has supplied police departments across the country with more than $4.3 billion in gear since 1997, including $449 million in 2013, Pentagon officials said.
The data was quietly posted on a Freedom of Information Act reading room for the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency on Nov. 21, as the Marshall Project noted today. It’s a significant change in policy: The Defense Department has repeatedly rejected FOIA requests for a full accounting of the 1033 program’s recipients.
The spreadsheets, captured here for Checkpoint, highlight the sheer volume of equipment the Pentagon is giving away — and that many of the departments receiving it are not big-city departments, but small police forces.
There are hundreds of organizations that have received armored mine-resistant vehicles, for example. Designed to protect combat troops from gunfire, rockets and roadside bombs, they have been sent to police departments who are ostensibly concerned about terrorism. Recipients include:
- The Val Verde Sheriff Office in Del Rio, Texas, which protects a rural county of about 50,000 people near the Mexico border.
- The Washington Police Department in Iowa, which has 10 sworn officers in a town of about 7,000.
- The Rehoboth Police Department in Massachusetts, which serves a town of about 10,000 along the Rhode Island border.
- The Saddleback College Police in California, which work at a community college.
Perhaps predictably, among the most common items issued were rifles, both in 5.56mm and 7.62mm caliber. They were supplied to departments large and small in a variety of quantities. Police in Long Beach, Calif., for example, have received 200 5.56mm rifles.
On the unexpected side: the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department in southern California received 500 pairs of snowshoes, the Clayton Township Police Department in Michigan and the North Kingsville Police Department in Ohio each received a French horn, and more than 372 televisions were supplied to police across the country, designated “for personal/home use.” In Cherokee County, Ala., the sheriff’s department also received 15,000 metal fence posts. Total value: more than $127,000.
Previously on Checkpoint:
Steven Rich contributed to this report.