One-Third of ‘Excess’ Military Equipment Sent to Local
Police Departments Was New, McCaskill Hearing Reveals
Among other findings: more than 450 lost weapons, lack of communication between agencies and departments,
Local police departments in 49 states have more MRAPs than those states’ National Guard units
WASHINGTON –More than one-third of “excess” military equipment supplied to local police departments through federal programs was either never used by the U.S. military or in new condition—a finding revealed in a Senate hearing today led by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill examining the militarization of state and local police departments, following the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Mo. police officer, and subsequent clashes between local police and protestors.
Among the hearing’s most shocking findings were that 36 percent of the equipment sent to local police departments through Department of Defense (DOD) was either never or little used by the military, due to a lack of coordination and accountability within the department. There have been more than 450 guns lost by state and local police departments that were sent as part of the DOD programs. Local police departments in 49 of 50 states have more Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) than their state’s National Guard units.
Click HERE for further information on federal programs providing military equipment to local police forces.
“I first approached Chairman Carper to hold this hearing because of the shock I felt as I saw events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri, in the weeks following the death of Michael Brown,” said McCaskill, a former county prosecutor, who led today’s hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “I heard reports from my constituents about aggressive police actions being used against protesters, well before any violence occurred. Like many of you, I saw armored vehicles with a sniper pointing a rifle at unarmed protesters in the middle of the day. I was shocked to see the way that the police were deploying this military equipment against residents of Missouri who were exercising their First Amendment rights.”
“One of the key lessons learned throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was the idea that we had to win hearts and minds, and one of the ways the military tried to do that was by acting more like a police force—working with communities, helping to repair broken windows and damaged property and trying to appear less militaristic with their presence in the communities,” McCaskill added. “It is ironic that the Defense Department’s policies are now fostering the opposite mentality at home.”
McCaskill and her colleagues examined the federal programs that enable local police departments to acquire military equipment, including DOD’s 1033 program for surplus property, administered by the Defense Logistics Agency, the Departments of Justice’s (DOJ) Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne-JAG) for local law enforcement, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Grant Program.
The amount of funding flowing to local police departments is so great that, according to testimony at the hearing, local law enforcement agencies are using grants from the Department of Homeland Security to pay for the transportation costs of the military-grade equipment they’re getting for free from DOD.
In questioning federal officials charged with administering these programs—Alan F. Estevez, Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at the DOD; Brian E. Kamoie, Assistant Administrator for Grant Programs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency at DHS; and Karol Mason, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs at DOJ—McCaskill highlighted their failure to coordinate and communicate, asking, “Before Ferguson, had the three of you ever met?”
The officials testified that they had never met previous to the events in Ferguson—to which McCaskill replied, “Not good.”
McCaskill also explored the possibility of requiring local police departments to use federal funding to purchase body-cameras for officers before securing other military-grade equipment, as part of an effort to ensure proper use of such equipment—and underscored the lack of training provided to local law enforcement when military equipment is provided. She pressed federal officials to work with Congress on policy changes to strengthen transparency and accountability throughout these federal programs.
Other witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing included:
- Chief Jim Bueermann, President of the Police Foundation
- Dr. Peter B. Kraska, Professor, School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University
- Mark Lomax, Executive Director at the National Tactical Officers Association, accompanied by Major Ed Allen, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office
- Wiley Price, Photojournalist with the St. Louis American Newspaper
- Hilary O. Shelton, Washington Bureau Director and Senior Vice President for Advocacy at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Visit mccaskill.senate.gov/accountability to learn more about McCaskill’s fight to strengthen accountability.