Federal program provides military equipment to local law enforcement

Published: Aug. 18, 2014 at 11:28 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2014 at 11:28 PM CDT
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The federal 1033 program provides local agencies vehicles and other military equipment....
The federal 1033 program provides local agencies vehicles and other military equipment. (Source: WAFF)

MORGAN COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - The Ferguson police use of heavy equipment to try to control rioters has touched off questions about police use of military equipment.

They got it from the Pentagon through a program also used by police agencies in North Alabama. At least 22 different law enforcement agencies in the area are part of the Pentagon's 1033 program.

We've also learned the equipment coming to these agencies is gear and equipment from the military.

The military has three options when they look to remove some of their inventory: Scrap it, sell it to a foreign country, or reallocate it to the local law enforcement.

According to an ACLU report, hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment is now going to local police.

Arab, who introduced a fleet of Hummers to their list of equipment, is one of the dozens North Alabama law enforcement agencies in the 1033 program. Other agencies also report receiving the same type of vehicle from the federal government.

Multiple departments said they've received tactical equipment, guns and even armored vehicles.

That includes Madison police, who received an M.R.A.P - or armored truck, the same vehicle we're seeing on the Ferguson streets.

Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin said her department has acquired more than $1.7 million worth of military equipment over the last few years through 1033.

"The first time that we really started using this program was after the 2011 tornadoes," Franklin said. "We did not have the type of equipment that we needed to do the initial first response rescue. We did not have four-wheel drive vehicles, but we did not have things that could go over rubble."

Sheriff Franklin and other North Alabama law enforcement leaders tell me they're afraid the unrest in Ferguson could spell the end for the program. Franklin said if it didn't exist, her deputies would not have the protection and equipment they need to respond to emergencies.

An Athens State University criminologist expert said despite recent scrutiny, the program is going nowhere.

"It's kind of like an experiment," explained Dr. Quanda Stevenson. "They will use certain types of weaponry and see if it will help them in getting them the results that they want, which is subduing, investigating, a crowd or situation."

The military gives departments this equipment for free, as long as their department can pick it up. Sheriff Franklin said her budget doesn't have a lot of wiggle room so getting their hands on this and not having to hit up taxpayers for the funds is a win win.

"We have all kinds of support equipment that provides services for all the what-ifs. But also, we have the equipment from them that we use for our daily operating," Franklin said.

Click here for a PDF list of all the equipment local law enforcement agencies use that was provided through the 1033 program.

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