Billions of taxpayer dollars are being used by the U.S. Department of Defense to provide military-grade weaponry to local law-enforcement departments, and the shadowy “1033” weapons program is expanding at a record pace. But critics of the scheme are concerned as even small-town police forces are building up arsenals that include amphibious tanks, helicopters, armored personnel carriers, robots, grenade launchers, and more.
According to Pentagon data cited by The Daily, the Defense Department gave away almost $500 million worth of surplus military equipment to state and local law enforcement in 2011 — a new record. And next year’s orders are already up more than 400 percent.
Meanwhile, violent crime has plummeted to 40-year lows. But since the 1033 program was authorized by Congress in 1997, more than $2.5 billion of gear has been distributed to over 17,000 local and state agencies.
“The trend toward militarization was well under way before 9/11,” Tim Lynch, director of the Cato Institute's project on criminal justice, told The Daily. “But it’s the federal policy of making surplus military equipment available almost for free that has poured fuel on this fire.”
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Photo of members of the Oregon State Police SWAT team: AP Images