In recent years, images have proliferated in the media of American law enforcement intervening in mass-protests – donning helmets, toting assault rifles, and marching alongside armored vehicles. While many Americans have been shocked by such displays, the militarization of police departments across the country is nothing new.
In the 1990s, an era of high crime marked by an escalation of the war on drugs in cities across the country, the U.S. Congress authorized the National Defense Authorization Act, also known as the 1033 Program. Under the NDAA, state and local law enforcement agencies could procure excess military weapons and equipment from the Department of Defense.
Since the program’s inception, the DOD has transferred $7.6 billion in military equipment to law enforcement agencies across the country. Between 2010 and 2013 alone, every state except Hawaii has used the program to acquire excess military weapons and equipment, often spending millions to do so.
Using data from the Defense Logistics Agency of the DoD, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states where law enforcement spends the most on military equipment. The 49 participating states are ranked by the total value of DOD surplus weapons, material, and equipment procured by its law enforcement agencies between 2010 and the first quarter of 2023. It is important to note that costs associated with these acquisitions reflect the original price paid by the military, and not necessarily what was paid by state and local law enforcement.
To better reflect increasing militarization of American law enforcement, items determined by the DOD to present a “low risk” when released from federal control were not included in our analysis. Such items include tents, forklifts, firearm slings, picnic tables, and boots.
While the 1033 Program prohibits the transfer of vehicles that inherently contain weaponry, such as Bradley fighting vehicles or armed drones, the list of weapons and material available to law enforcement is extensive. Tracked and armored vehicles, rifles, bayonets, gunner protection kits, and night vision goggles are all fair game. (Here is a look at the countries where police have the most firepower.)
In many states, local police departments and sheriff’s offices have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on mine resistant vehicles and millions on fixed wing aircraft and helicopters since 2010. While such equipment has been deemed appropriate for law enforcement purposes, usage is subject to regular federal, state, and local oversight. (Here is a look at the most militarized local police departments in America.)
Click here to see states where law enforcement have the most military equipment.
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