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The Military Government

Two Years of Data On What Military Equipment the Pentagon Gave To Local Police 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the bazookas-for-all dept.
v3rgEz writes: Wondering how the St. Louis County Police ended up armed with surplus military gear, and what equipment other departments have? A FOIA request at MuckRock has turned up every item given to local law enforcement under the Pentagon's 1022 program, the mechanism by which local law enforcement can apply for surplus or used military gear.
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Two Years of Data On What Military Equipment the Pentagon Gave To Local Police

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  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 16, 2014 @10:17PM (#47687109)

    Military surplus doesn't kill people, cops kill people....

    • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

      by diamondmagic (877411) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @10:34PM (#47687193) Homepage

      Military surplus makes such tyranny especially cheap, cheaper than it would otherwise be. Also something about the law of demand.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JDAustin (468180) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:34PM (#47687429)

      When you give the police weapons of war then they will find someone to go to war with. Unfortunately, that is the general populace.

      • Re:No (Score:5, Funny)

        by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @12:42AM (#47687573) Journal
        When you give everyone guns they will find someone to shoot. And if you listen to the NRA, then you know that just isn't true. So your statement can't be true either.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's not really the weapons that make the police act this way, it's the lack of accountability.

        • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

          by hodagacz (948570) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .eodnezitic.> on Sunday August 17, 2014 @01:55AM (#47687671)

          Private citizens are under far more accountability and surveillance than law enforcement.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by DigiShaman (671371)

          The police don't want war. In fact, they typically go after the low hanging fruit in offenders. You could be downloading an illegal copy of a movie from Starbucks and be busted while simultaneously a drug addict and a pimp are engaged in some sort of dispute across the street. Yeah, fuck that. Too much trouble. But hey, easy quota right?

          • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Travis Mansbridge (830557) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @05:04AM (#47687947)
            Actually, the drug addicts are the low hanging fruit, and the war on drugs is precisely why the US has imprisoned a far higher percentage of its population than any other first world nation.
            • Actually, the drug addicts are the low hanging fruit, and the war on drugs is precisely why the US has imprisoned a far higher percentage of its population than any other first world nation.

              • Crap, hit submit prematurely by accident. I wanted to point out that the "first world" qualifier is not even necessary.

            • by Kiwikwi (2734467)

              the war on drugs is precisely why the US has imprisoned a far higher percentage of its population than any other first world nation.

              To be specific, the US incarcerates more people than any nation, first-world or not. That's not only by percentages, but also by absolute numbers. Roughly one in four prisoners worldwide [wikipedia.org] sits in a US prison.

          • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

            by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @07:13AM (#47688235) Homepage Journal

            You could be downloading an illegal copy of a movie from Starbucks and be busted while simultaneously a drug addict and a pimp are engaged in some sort of dispute across the street.

            It is not illegal for a "drug addict and a pimp" to be engaged in some sort of dispute.

            • Probable cause is exercised at police discretion. But yes I agree, even that would be a bullshit scenario. Well, not unless they're disrupting the peace, but I digress.

        • by Dare nMc (468959)

          When you give everyone guns they will find someone to shoot. And if you listen to the NRA, then you know that just isn't true. So your statement can't be true either.

          I think the issue is more the "giving" part. Because the police departments were given the military weapons, when they have a 1000 people protesting, they look at the tools on hand, a pistol, a machine gun, and a assault tank. They are then given the task of breaking up the protesters, stopping and apprehending looters, and not taught how to do

        • > When you give everyone guns

          The U.S. has approximately one gun per person, including children (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country). They are not evenly distributed, but to a first approximation we already reached the "everyone has guns" level.

          • by wwphx (225607)
            While the number of guns has increased, the number of households and people with guns have decreased. What you have is a small(ish) group of individuals buying as many guns as they can possibly afford while the broad public sentiment seems to be eschewing gun ownership.

            And I have owned probably 20 guns cumulatively and over 10 at the same time at one point. I haven't owned any in over a decade for various reasons. And I don't feel particularly uncomfortable not owning any, though I do miss target and
    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:51PM (#47687491) Homepage Journal

      When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Now police's only tool are military-grade weapons, intended to kill.

      And sometimes the situation changes how people is, like in this Standford prison experiment [wikipedia.org]

      Add to that how police cover up miscarriages [huffingtonpost.com] and that you can't [techdirt.com] film [huffingtonpost.com] the police [rawstory.com], is not just who watches the watchers, but who watches the watchers that have military-grade weapons in the streets and are abusing of them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cold fjord (826450)

        When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Now police's only tool are military-grade weapons, intended to kill.

        Really? What makes you think that? The additional weapons are available as additional contingency weapons, not as a solitary replacement for all tools, weapons, technology, and methods that they used before.

        You also overlook that police departments started substituting rifles for shotguns long ago due do demonstrated need, and the experience of being outgunned.

        National Geographic Situation Critical Hollywood Shootout [youtube.com]

        • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

          by erikkemperman (252014) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @01:52AM (#47687665)

          I think the point is that when the police are shooting people in great numbers -- I don't think the US has a peer in that dept -- then it might not be a great idea to give them even more destructive weaponry. Sure it would be "contingency" equipment when anyone asks, but sooner or later it'll be standard issue.

          Remember those billions (!) of rounds of ammo that DHS bought?

          In combination with the, shall we say, questionable record of accountability of police actions, tooling up to this extent seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

          • I think the point is that when the police are shooting people in great numbers -- I don't think the US has a peer in that dept -- then it might not be a great idea to give them even more destructive weaponry.

            That is nonsense. Police in the US aren't routinely engaging in massacres, nor do they just shoot at random people as a standard practice. The question isn't do they have weapons, but are those weapons being used inappropriately?

            Remember those billions (!) of rounds of ammo that DHS bought?

            That didn't actually happen. But even if it did, the actual question is still whether they are using that supply appropriately.

            In combination with the, shall we say, questionable record of accountability of police actions, tooling up to this extent seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

            Maybe by routinely providing US police machine pistols (submachine guns ) as is common in Europe would help bring greater peace to society? What do you

        • So pray tell, what kind of contingency requires grenade launchers? They're on that list.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      the militarization of our police goes beyond equipment, there is training according to an agenda

  • Too much surplus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by halltk1983 (855209) <halltk1983@yahoo.com> on Saturday August 16, 2014 @10:18PM (#47687127) Homepage Journal
    If we have this much surplus, clearly we're buying too much. I know that if I find myself giving away cans of green beans, I make sure I don't buy a whole pallet the next time I'm at Costco.
    • by jd2112 (1535857) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @10:27PM (#47687153)

      If we have this much surplus, clearly we're buying too much. I know that if I find myself giving away cans of green beans, I make sure I don't buy a whole pallet the next time I'm at Costco.

      Perhaps, but unlike the military you don't have some Senator from a state with a lot of green bean farms and canning plants telling you that you must purchase pallets of green beans regardless of whether you want or need them.

    • Re:Too much surplus (Score:5, Informative)

      by Firethorn (177587) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @10:34PM (#47687189) Homepage Journal

      Have you never bought something that it turned out that you didn't need? Amplify that to the scale the DoD operates on and you get some serious amounts of 'surplus'.

      Add in that the military has to operate on the principal of being prepared, and thus have stocks in case of danger, it makes sense for durable goods to still be useful when declared surplus.

      For example, rather than having eight types of truck around, cut it down to 2 and surplus the rest. Individual departments with ONE armored vehicle can worry about the parts it needs, and if it breaks down it's not normally that big of a deal. Meanwhile the Army has to worry about hundreds of them, and if they break down too often due to age it's just not worth it.

    • If we have this much surplus, clearly we're buying too much. I know that if I find myself giving away cans of green beans, I make sure I don't buy a whole pallet the next time I'm at Costco.

      Not necessarily. Following 9/11, the U.S. began two major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq under the Bush administration. Under the Obama administration, the U.S. has withdrawn from Iraq, wound down operations in Afghanistan, and begun to reduce the size of the army. As a result there is going to be a lot of equipment that simply isn't needed anymore; if we're not longer engaged in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq for example, we don't need all those MRAP vehicles anymore. So what do you do with all this cr

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      Some part of the surplus is probably stuff that's been replaced by newer upgraded stuff, not just excess inventory.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      If we have this much surplus, clearly we're buying too much.

      Not really. US's tactic is limiting casualties through high-tech warfare, and technology marches on. If you want to stay on the cutting edge, you'll constantly be replacing still-functional hardware with newer. This isn't limited to the military, of course, but is something all too familiar from the PC world.

      A bigger problem is that giving military hardware to the police will eventually make the police into a domestic army. Is this desirable?

  • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @10:53PM (#47687251) Journal

    Arms merchants are the real problem. They should all be sho...umm. We should bomb their factorie.... ummm... Let's just nuke all the... umm..

    Lemme get back to you on this.

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      No, the lawmakers and law executives in the pockets of arms merchants and other big corporations that profit from war and war mongering are the problem

  • Checked my own state (Score:5, Informative)

    by gman003 (1693318) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @10:54PM (#47687265)

    For Virginia, I skimmed through and found:
    * Basically every county, city and even college police were involved. Specifically which department got each thing isn't listed.
    * 2 "laser range-finder/target designators". They listed laser range-finders with a different name, so these are definitely ones that could illuminate a target for bombing. Scary.
    * 4 explosive ordnance disposal robots
    * 1 mine-resistant vehicle
    * 23 5.56mm rifles, 14 7.62mm rifles, 4 .45 pistols and 3 12ga "riot-type" shotguns. I did not notice any other arms, specifically .50 rifles. Interestingly, there were no multiple transfers of weapons - either only one gun was given to each department, or they're logging individual serial numbers, or they're lying their ass off.
    * On a lighter note, a single electronic calculator, a bicycle, two golf carts and a "mule" were also listed. Whether that mule was an M274 truck or an actual mule is unspecified - the M274 was obsoleted in the '80s while mules continue to be used in Afghanistan, so an actual mule isn't that implausible.

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      Considering that any police department can purchase those firearms from almost any gun store, or off the internet using department letterhead if they want full-auto operation, I'm not too worried about those. I'm not going to say that an officer shouldn't have a patrol rifle or shotgun 'just in case'. $499 isn't much anyways. Looking it up, the NSN for the 7.62 rifle valued at $138 identifies it as an M-14. Most are probably shot to heck, but if you get one in good condition it can be a good pick for a

    • "Mule" is kind of a Kleenexed term these days. It's probably what kids today call a "UTV".

      Funny story, a friend's dad had an old M274 out in the barn. We never managed to get it running. I guess that wasn't much of a story.

  • Maybe it's time to apply some gun restrictions on cops. I know what you'll say, "If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns." But I'm OK with people who go to jail if they should shoot an innocent person, having guns. It's the people who can shoot someone without facing the consequences who have the most potential to abuse their guns.

    • by drnb (2434720) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:16PM (#47687353)
      Sort of ... only allow police to have firearms that civilians are allowed to have. Solves two problems. The militarization of police and the disarming of the civilian populace.
      • Better idea -- should a civilian shoots someone, they should get treated exactly the same whether they are police or not. Also, police are civilians.

      • At the cost of ensuring any attempt to enforce the law results in a massive and relatively even firefight that is likely to result in a whole lot more blood spilled?

        Generally, sane countries want police to have a systematic advantage over criminals when it comes to basic things like weaponry and ability to drive fast. The UK is able to have a mostly disarmed police force because the population is also mostly disarmed. So you can solve it in both directions.

        • by drnb (2434720)

          At the cost of ensuring any attempt to enforce the law results in a massive and relatively even firefight that is likely to result in a whole lot more blood spilled?

          You are woefully misinformed. It won't be even. Tactics, training and skill will give law enforcement the edge.

          Plus the semi-auto high powered rifles you see law enforcement carrying on the TV, they are legal for civilians in most jurisdictions. Keep in mind that even in jurisdictions with "assault weapon" bans these are nearly always based on cosmetics, these bans are "placebos" that make some feel good but factually accomplish nothing since functionally equivalent substitutes are still available. Vario

  • Oh wonderful, at least three of my area police departments are participating in the program. It would be nice to see what they're getting, I wouldn't complain about most of the stuff on the materials list (coats, hydration kits, rope, etc), even a few guns wouldn't be out of the question. But if your local PD begins equipping all of their officers with riot shields/assault rifles, body armor, & armored vehicles they've ceased to be "peace officers". If these records went back a few more years I could

    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:42PM (#47687459) Journal

      equipping all of their officers with riot shields/assault rifles, body armor, & armored vehicles they've ceased to be "peace officers".

      Indeed, one of the first acts in the Irish/UK peace process in N Ireland was a military order for all UK soldiers to remove their helmets while on street patrol as a gesture of trust. The simple act of removing a helmet requires a hell of a lot more courage than shooting into a crowd with rubber bullets from atop of armored vehicles. Sure, the macho swat stuff must remain an option for serious incidents, but calling in a swat team with riot gear and snipers for a routine suburban drug bust is the hallmark of a coward.

  • Here is a table of National Stock Numbers: http://www.gsa.gov/dg/NSN_DATA... [gsa.gov]

    If anyone is interested, I can import both spreadsheets into a PostgreSQL database, join by the NSNs, and post a dump/query/something.

  • by Joe Gillian (3683399) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:40PM (#47687447)

    Here's what I don't get: why are so many college and school police officers applying for militarized gear? I could understand the police wanting a SWAT team in case of a school shooting, but giving college campus police military-grade firearms sounds like a very good way to have a second Kent State Massacre occur. Why can't they just leave the military stuff in the hands of the SWAT teams?

    • by Zeek40 (1017978) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:54PM (#47687495)
      Because college and university police departments are full of petulant man-children who were rejected by city and county police departments and who whine like 8 year olds: But mom! All the cool kids are getting issued M-16's and tear gas launchers!
      • All police departments are full of petulant man-children. Your city and county cops don't need a .50 BMG machine gun mounted on an APC, either.

    • by dbIII (701233)
      I don't even get the concept of college and school police officers - such a thing should be a State level thing IMHO so there's enough people in the process to get some sort of professionalism. Even having at the city level is insane and resulted in things like the Terry Childs debacle due to the city being able to instruct a cop to arrest someone over an employment dispute and then sort out a reason for the arrest later. It's like medieval fucking city states instead of a modern society that's supposed t
  • by arthurh3535 (447288) on Saturday August 16, 2014 @11:40PM (#47687449)

    We somehow need a ton of 5.62 rifles and 7.62 rifles, bayonets, a blowdart, a grenade launcher and a Hellfire High Intensity (something?).

    And considering the SLC Metro area isn't _that_ rough and tumble, I'm wondering who they are planning to go to war against?

  • by bayankaran (446245) on Sunday August 17, 2014 @12:30AM (#47687547) Homepage
    US has a serious problem with militarization of police. Its ironical that the "munitions" - what an inventive word by the way - are now targeted against your own citizens. The images coming from Ferguson remind you of Ukraine and/or other war torn nations.
    All those police snipers/SWAT teams pointing laser weapons at protestors...one mistake by an adrenaline junkie will happen and you will get FPS action against your own citizens broadcast live around the world.
    The superheroes, the best and brightest who planned putting military gear into the hands of police should be sent to GITMO.
    • by drolli (522659)

      If they remind you of Ukraine, then you are an idiot without any sense of respect for about 2000 deaths. In Ukraine they use artillery and air strikes. Already in the bery beginning of the conflict snipers shot into protesters.

      IMHO the problem in the US is not the police. The problem is that the police needs to be more heavily armed than the civiliangs. If i should control driver licenses as a policeman in a country where a significant fraction of the population has firearms, and a non-negligible part of th

  • All the stories I've read about this emphasize the borderline irrational decisions to send stuff like MRAPs to some small town whose biggest problems seem to be parking on the wrong side of the street and overdue library books. I think some of the real high-end hardware has gone to places like New York City where some kind of claim can be made for being an actual terrorism target.

    What I'm curious about, though, is whether you could do any kind of analysis of hardware distribution vs. demographics to see if

  • http://www.cato.org/publicatio... [cato.org]

    Radley Balko has been writing about the militarization of our police for years.

    This map of botched police raids is especially scary:

    http://www.cato.org/raidmap [cato.org]

    Frankly, I'd rather have my law abiding neighbors armed than the cops.

    • From this year: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news... [wsbtv.com]

      "On Friday, Fort, a Wisconsin state senator, a Phonesavanh's family spokesperson and the child's attorney provided an update on the boy's legal fight and condition.
      "His face still bares from scars that are going to take a number of reconstructive surgeries," said family spokesman Marcus Coleman.
      "We have been informed by the family that every single night, every single night, this child wakes up screaming and holding his face," said Coleman."

      All because some h

  • A militarized police is so handy! You can:

    1) Get around that annoying "Posse comitatus" thing.

    2) You can use them to fight the national guard, should they become unccoperative.

    3) You can field them for both local OR national coups against EITHER the Feds or the State authorities (Texas, you wanted to secede? Your chance is coming...).

    4) You can ramp up civil forfeiture (i.e. Theft by law enforcement) and take a cut!

    They slice! They dice! You can even Julliane freedom fries! Militarized by military surplus cops. Whoo Hoo!

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