Open the Books: Tracking military weaponry and war machines flowing to America’s local police departments

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Posted: Sep 04, 2017 4:38 PM

[Last] week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced President Donald Trump’s plan to distribute military gear to state and local law enforcement agencies. The rule change means weapons typically reserved for war-time use – tracked armored (tank-like) vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vessels, grenade launchers, bayonets, and firearms with ammunition of .50-caliber or higher – will start flowing to local law enforcement agencies through the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program.

Yes, the story is familiar. In 2016, we sounded the alarm at Forbes about the Obama administration sending heavy weapons to local police departments. We noted that people of good faith on both the left and right were raising serious concerns regarding civil liberties and the growth of government.

Today, the same questions are valid: What’s the legitimate law enforcement purpose for these weapons? Does the militarization of local police threaten our civil liberties?

Search our OpenTheBooks interactive map for all weaponry transferred to the 6,500 local, state and other federal police agencies across America since 2006. See it all – in your hometown, park district, forest preserve, junior college, university, county, state police – or federal agency such as Homeland Security, Interior and the Justice Department – across any ZIP code!

What military gear will you find in your local police department? Here’s a sample of our findings:

 – In Illinois, the College of DuPage received 14 fully automatic M16 rifles. The police department in Wheaton (pop. 53,000) picked up 68 M16 and M14 rifles plus five pistols (.45 caliber). Evanston – a small community known to promote gun control ordinances – procured 20 M16 rifle.
– In Ohio, the Department of Natural Resources received 240 fully automatic M16 and M14 rifles. Why? To enforce hunting laws?
– Mine-resistant armored vehicles (49) were transferred to many small towns and counties in Florida including Baker County (pop. 27,000), Leesburg (pop. 22,400), Hallandale Beach (37,113), and Suwannee County (pop. 43,000).

To read this full column, visit Forbes.com.