(WASHINGTON POST) The events in Ferguson, Missouri this week are an uncomfortable reminder of the militarization of America's small town law enforcement agencies. The photos coming out of the town--of heavily armed officers in full combat gear squaring off against unarmed protesters--look like images we're used to seeing from places like Gaza, Turkey, or Egypt, not from a midwestern suburb of 21,000 people.
One of the ways police departments have armed themselves in recent years is through the Defense Department's excess property program, known as the 1033 Program. It "permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer, without charge, excess U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) personal property (supplies and equipment) to state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs)," according to the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center.
The 1033 program has transferred more than $4.3 billion in equipment since its inception in 1997. In 2013 alone it gave nearly half a billion dollars worth of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, according to the program's website.
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