In Iraq and Afghanistan, you’ll find U.S. troops with M16 rifles, Humvee trucks, and high-tech surveillance equipment, but that military hardware is increasingly showing up in small-town police departments.
Part of what’s known as the “1033 Program” meant to augment police departments fighting the drug war, military gear is showing up in large numbers, and in some unlikely places, as an Associated Press investigation found.
With little oversight and a “if I don’t get it, someone else will” mentality among police chiefs, the AP found some interesting (and somewhat shocking) finds:
— Morven, Ga.: Despite having an ankle-deep creek as it’s deepest body of water, the police chief got his hands on three boats, scuba gear, and rescue rafts.
— Rising Star, Texas: With a population of 835 residents, and only one full-time police officer, this department netted more than $3.2 million in property over 14 months.
— Bureau Count, Ill.: The sheriff — who had government-issued M14 rifles — was accused of lending some of them out to friends.
“We have concerns that the lines between the two [police and military] is starting to blur,” John Chasnoff, an ACLU spokesman, told CBS St. Louis last March.
We’ve covered this trend before, writing of more than $34 billion in grants from DHS to local police departments. This in turn, has boosted the rise of heavily armed SWAT teams and their use on otherwise routine drug warrants — but this new report is one of the more in-depth looks at the issue.
“The harm for me is that it further militarizes American law enforcement,” Norm Stamper, a retired Seattle Police chief told the AP. “We make a serious mistake, I’m convinced, in equipping domestic law enforcement, particularly in smaller, rural communities, with this much military equipment.”
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