Federal Law Allows Pentagon to Give Cities Weapons for Free

Friday, 15 Aug 2014 01:10 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Police departments are becoming increasingly equipped as if they are going to war, thanks to a clause in a 1990 law that allows the Pentagon to give equipments to the nation's police departments.

The law was enacted because of the "war on drugs" in the 1980s, the National Review reported, and since 2006, some 432 mine-resistant armored vehicles have gone out to police departments, along with 400 armored vehicles, 500 planes and other aircraft, and 93,000 machine guns.

Last year, the Pentagon gave away $449.3 million of military equipment to local agencies, according to the program's website.

According to the 1990 law, the weaponry, transferred without cost to police departments, must be "suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities" and "excess to the needs of the Department of Defense."

Priority is still given to police departments in communities known for high drug trafficking activities, The Washington Post reported. The DEA says that represents 60 percent of the total U.S. population, according to the newspaper.

According to The New York Times, the equipment is not forced on precincts, but is distributed upon request, and in the case of communities such as Ferguson, the extra equipment can make a police department response seem more like a military exercise.

The equipment also includes office equipment, ATVs, trucks and generators, the Post reported.

However, while the equipment may be free for police departments, taxpayers absorb steep bills for the program.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford told the online defense journal DoDBuzz that armored tactical vehicles cost about $10,000 each to destroy in the field, but up to $50,000 to bring back to the United States and hand off to a local police department.

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