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Has Surplus Military Gear Wound Up in Your City?

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Posted on Aug 22, 2014

    The map shows that, for instance, King County, Wash., has received "201 night vision pieces, "120 assault rifles," "150 body armor pieces," "2 helicopters" and "1 mine resistant vehicle" since 2006. Image by The New York Times

An interactive map of American counties lets readers see how many aircraft, armored vehicles, body armor, grenade launchers, vision accessories and assault rifles left over from the military-industrial complex’s bloody adventures in the Middle East have ended up in their hometown.

The New York Times reports:

State and local police departments obtain some of their military-style equipment through a free Defense Department program created in the early 1990s. While the portion of their gear that comes from the program is relatively small (most of it is paid for by the departments or through federal grants), detailed data from the Pentagon illustrates how ubiquitous such equipment has become. Highlighted counties have received guns, grenade launchers, vehicles, night vision or body armor through the program since 2006.

See the map here.

In an accompanying article published Aug. 14 about the use of military equipment to contain the ongoing race violence in Ferguson, Mo., the Times reported:

[T]he federal government has spent more than a decade paying for body armor, mine-resistant trucks and other military gear, all while putting few restrictions on its use. Grant programs that, in the name of fighting terrorism, paid for some of the equipment being used in Ferguson have been consistently popular since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. If there has been any debate at all, it was over which departments deserved the most money.

… All these programs began or were expanded in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, when the authorities in Washington declared that local police departments were on the front lines of a global war on terrorism. Terrorism is exceedingly rare, however, and the equipment and money far outpaced the threat.

… In most instances, the government did not require training for police departments receiving military-style equipment and few if any limitations were put on its use, [Frank J. Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University] said.

The increase in military-style equipment has coincided with a significant rise in the number of police SWAT teams, which are increasingly being used for routine duties such as conducting liquor inspections and serving warrants.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

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