UPDATE: What’s Up with Militarized Police?

Filed under: Law Enforcement,Stories |


On January 16, 2015, President Obama issued Executive Order 13688 to provide increased federal oversight about the collection, retention, and use of controlled equipment in significant incidents. On the “controlled equipment list” are many of the vehicles and weapons acquired by police departments under the 1033 program [see below], such as those described in the following article. Under EO 13688, law enforcement agencies have until April 1, 2016, to return the equipment.

As reported in the New York Times on January 26, most of the agencies have complied, but some are complaining that the move endangers their communities. Sheriff Larry Amerson of Calhoun County, Ala., told FoxNews.com how he feels. ““Our agency is not big, we have a total of 130 employees, and we don’t have quarter-of-a-million-dollar budget to buy [a tank]. The 1033 program gave us the opportunity to get that for free, which was in my view a no brainer.”


On June 9, 2014, Home Invasion News published an article titled “Marijuana Home Invasion: What’s the Chance?”

The article featured a photo of a tank-like vehicle used by the Bremerton, WA, police department to enter a home where the residents were linked to two marijuana-related home invasion robberies in the area. Bremerton police noted that neither of the home invasion robberies appeared random but, rather, were directly related to the home invaders’ belief that occupants of the home were dealing marijuana.



In other words, the residents of the house visited by the Kitsap County SWAT Team were suspected of stealing from local marijuana growers. Note. Possessing mariuana in small amounts and consuming it at home have been legal in Washington state since 2012. Sale of recreational marijuana was legalized in Washington state on July 8, 2014.

 Along Came Ferguson

At the time we wrote the article, we were struck by the degree of force and armaments the police seemed to think necessary. Then, along came Ferguson, bringing with it a national outcry about police militarization.


An article in “Bay View,” San Francisco’s “National Black Newspaper,” put it this way: “But the widespread militarization on display in Ferguson is part of a more recent trend that began three decades ago with the introduction of the disastrous “war on drugs” and dramatically escalated with the “war on terror” – leading directly to the counterinsurgency-like tactics deployed against the people of Ferguson by civilian police officers who more closely resemble combat soldiers in Afghanistan than domestic cops.

So, exactly what’s up and how did this happen?

Let’s start with the Department of Defense Excess Property Program. Also called 1033, this program based in Ft. Belvoir, VA, just outside Washington, DC, is a Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) program. 1033 “provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.”

captionLomo M60 tank Kevin DooleyAmong the equipment provided are fixed wing and rotary aircraft, pickup trucks, blazers, ambulances, armored personnel carriers, ballistic helmets, fire retardant and all-weather clothing, boots, canteens, web belts, and some of the types of field gear items issued for marijuana eradication. Binoculars, radios, camcorders, tv/vcr combinations, desktop and laptop computers, printers, and servers also have been issued. Any state or local law enfocement agency may participate in the DoD program.

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Disposition Services [formerly known as the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Services] has final authority to determine the type, quantity and location of excess military property suitable for use in law enforcement activities.

Since the program’s inception in 1997, DoD has transferred more than $5.1 billion worth of property to state and local law enforcement.



An August 16, 2014, article in the Christian Science Monitor, links the 1033 program with perceived militarization of U.S. Law Enforcement agencies and local police. “The Department of Defense launched the “1033 program” in 1997 as a way to let state and local law enforcement stock up on excess US military equipment, free of charge,” the article notes.

In August 2013, Newsweek noted that Ferguson Missouri, looks like a war zone,” noting that “America has been quietly arming its police for battle since the early 1990s.” Why? To reduce some of its bloated military stockpile while simultaneously dealing with was perceived as a worsening drug crisis. “By providing law enforcement agencies with surplus military equipment free of charge, the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] encourages police to employ military weapons and military tactics.”

Under 1033 guideliness, then, it appears the equipment used in Bremerton, WA, was viewed as a “counter-narcotics” event. Other small communities that have armed themselves appear to have similar concerns —  South Bend, IN … and Bloomington, GA  .. and Parsons,TN … and Alliance, OH ..  and Brevard, FL … and Neenah, WI  .. and so on, and so on, and so on.


Many of the raids purport to be about “drugs,” but too many of the exercises employ unsafe – even abusive –tactics, says the American Civil Liberties Union. Others argue that police departments need to defend themselves. On September 19, 2014, USA Today reported law enforcement agencies affiliated with schools are among those who have received military surplus equipment through the Department of Defense’s 1033 program.

Meanwhile, local communities are beginning to worry. Voices of protest have been raised nationwide, with journalists and community leaders alike expressing concerns.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been particularly vocal about the militarization of local police, particularly with regard to this trend’s disparate impact on communities of color. On August 23, 2014, President Obama ordered a review of military equipment sales to police.

In the meantime, Home Invasion News is expecting more, not fewer, armaments in “the neighborhood.”

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