WTVC NewsChannel 9 :: News - Top Stories - Raw Numbers: How Much and What Kind of Gear Your Local Law Enforcement Got from the U.S. Military
Tuesday, August 19 2014, 01:04 PM EDT
Raw Numbers: How Much and What Kind of Gear Your Local Law Enforcement Got from the U.S. Military
The recent events of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri has shone a spotlight on the amount of military gear that local law enforcement offices has received from the United States military in recent years.

In the case of Ferguson, police were firing rubber bullets, not real ones, along with tear gas and smoke bombs in an effort to tamp down protests and disperse demonstrators who had gathered to demand justice for Michael Brown.

The response of the Ferguson and St. Louis County police to the protests has highlighted a growing trend in policing in the United States: police SWAT teams look increasingly like military forces, using military-grade equipment and justifying that use by noting that the public has increasingly-sophisticated weapons themselves.

The distribution of military equipment to local law enforcement began in the 1990s to help agencies fight the so-called war on drugs. It was expanded after 9/11, with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, to help law enforcement fight terror threats, experts said.

Thereas no information yet about what other tactical equipment the Ferguson Police Department may have received, the official said, but a complete list of the equipment provided to St. Louis County by the DoD shows the types of weapons being distributed: six .45-caliber pistols, 12 rifles, two sight reflexes, one explosive ordnance disposal robot, one helicopter, seven utility trucks, three trailers, one motorized cart, one pair of elbow pads, one pair of knee pads, one industrial strength face shield, two night-vision viewers, and computers.

But Ferguson is certainly not alone in the country when it comes to military equipment provided to local law enforcement offices by the U.S. military.

Using an interactive map provided by the New York Times using publicly-provided data from the Department of Defense, below is a full list of items provided to local county law enforcement within the NewsChannel9 viewing area.

You may note that Hamilton County, though it is the most populous county in the viewing area, is nowhere near the top of the list. Murray, Bradley, McMinn and Walker Counties all have significant additions to their arsenal, courtesy of the Department of Defense. Bradley and Walker Counties are the only local counties who have received an armored vehicle. (Please note: this is in addition to equipment that these law enforcement offices already have that are provided within their respective county budgets).

We have ranked the counties in a general order of total numbers of items.

McMinn County:
-Assault Rifles: 110
-Pistols: 72

Bradley County:
-Pistol: 106
-Assault Rifles: 42
-Armored Vehicles: 1

Murray County:
-Assault Rifles: 57
-Shotgun: 6

Gordon County:
-Assault Rifles: 30
-Shotguns: 12

Walker County:
-Assault Rifles: 15
-Body Armor Pieces: 5
-Shotguns: 5
-Night Vision Pieces: 3
-Armored Vehicles: 1

Hamilton County:
-Assault Rifles: 21
-Night Vision Piece: 4

Catoosa County:
-Assault Rifles: 13

Whitfield County:
-Assault Rifles: 10
-Pistols: 2

Rhea County:
-Assault Rifles: 5

Bledsoe County:
-Assault Rifles: 5

Chattooga County:
-Shotguns: 9
-Assault Rifles: 4
-Pistols: 2

Polk County:
-Assault Rifles: 4

Dade County:
-Assault Rifles: 4

Grundy County:
-Assault Rifles: 2

Marion County:
-Pistols: 5
-Assault Rifles: 1

Meigs County:
-Night Vision Pieces: 3

While departments are likely to defend the acquisitions as a boon to keeping order in their communities, critics say this could be a problem.

"When you arm police like soldiers and outfit them with military weapons and train them on military tactics and tell them theyare fighting a war, whether it's a war on crime or drugs or looters and rioters, theyare going to start seeing themselves as soldiers, and seeing the people they serve less as citizens with rights and more as potential threats, and thatas what weare seeing," said Radley Balko, author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop" and a reporter for the Washington Post.

 Other law enforcement personnel, including former Los Angeles Police Chief and current New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton, have defended the equipment as necessary for defending themselves from a more dangerous citizenry.

aI donat see us as militarizing police,a Bratton told the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2011. aI see us as keeping abreast with society. And we are a gun-crazy society.a

Balko said that isn't necessarily true.

"There are more guns out there but thereas not much evidence that thereas a problem. The crime rateas been dropping since 1994, and the Justice Department's done a couple of studies that show the type of gun typically used in a homicide, overwhelmingly, is low caliber handgun," Balko said. "The job of police officer has been getting safer as crime rate has been dropping."

"Whatas happening in Ferguson is a reflection of militarization of policing happening across America," said Kara Dansky, senior counsel at the ACLU and the author of the report. "It's the routine use of paramilitary tactics, using weapons directly from the U.S. military, in towns across America."

"As weare seeing in Ferguson, it tends to escalate the risk of violence, makes people less safe, and undermines the public's trust in law enforcement," Dansky said.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby was asked about criticism about the increased militarization of police forces in the U.S. at a news conference last week.

"There is a law enforcement support program that the Defense Department administers which provides to law enforcement agencies around the country surplus military equipment, gear, arms, ammunition, vehicles," he said. "This is a useful program that allows for the reuse of military equipment that otherwise would be disposed of that can be used, again, by law enforcement agencies to serve their citizens."

"That said, it is up to law enforcement agencies to speak to how and what they gain through this system. And I'm not going to inject the Pentagon into this discussion. How this equipment is used to serve local citizens, again, is up for local law enforcement agencies to speak to," Kirby said.Raw Numbers: How Much and What Kind of Gear Your Local Law Enforcement Got from the U.S. Military

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