More Military Surplus Gear Heads to Police Departments

Monday, 04 Aug 2014 04:25 PM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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Police departments are using a federal program that allows them to obtain surplus military weapons, including ambush-protected vehicles recently used during a raid conducted by one Connecticut police department, reports The Associated Press.

The Watertown, Conn., Police Department recently spent $2,800 to pick up a $733,000 mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle in Texas. It would have cost $10,500 to have it delivered.

Local police departments across the country are able to obtain such hardware through the federal Defense Logistics Agency's 1033 Program, which allows "all law enforcement agencies to acquire property for bona fide law enforcement purposes," according to the DLA's website.

Over 8,000 federal and state law enforcement agencies from all 50 states and the U.S. territories are allowed to participate in the program, and preference is given to counter-drug and counter-terrorism requests.

Some law enforcement officials defend the acquisition and say it helps provide needed resources during tough economic times.

"There's several different people that use this type of equipment, and during the tough budget times it's certainly been very important to us," Assistant Chief John Leavitt, of the Tucson, Ariz., police department, told KVOA-TV.

The station reports that almost a half-million dollars in equipment has been sent to the Tucson police by the DLA since the beginning of 2013. The surplus ranged from MRAPs to combat boots and even bayonets.

In July, the DLA announced that it had reached an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency to continue to use excess military vehicles to help support firefighting efforts.

Data from the Defense Logistics Agency's Law Enforcement Support Office show the number of agencies requesting equipment increased each year since 2009, except for a one-year decline from 2012 to 2013, reports USA Today.

Not everyone is happy about the surplus going to local law enforcement.

Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute of Utah, expressed concern that the program could lead to a militarization of local law enforcement.

"The data I've seen is that the risk is decreasing, and yet the tools of defense are gearing up," Boyack told the Salt Lake City Tribune.

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