At a White House press conference today, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Program 1033 is a good one– but the White House will investigate if it’s operating as intended
“Are they getting equipment they don’t need? Are they using equipment in the right way? Are they getting the training they need to operate the equipment? These are questions that deserve answering. Are local law enforcement agencies being good stewards of this military equipment,” said Earnest.
Law enforcement here in New Jersey has received over 2,000 pieces of tactical gear under the program over the past decade.
Today NJTV reviewed it all– scanning through the data provided by the United States Defense Logistics Agency.
What did we find? Police have acquired everything from armored vehicles to grenade launchers and riot gear– mostly for free. The federal program only requires that the local departments pay shipping costs.
“As the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan begin to wind down we see equipment that was meant for the battlefield showing up in towns and counties across our state,” said ACLU-NJ Public Policy Director Ari Rosemarin.
In 2008 Bergen County obtained a grenade launcher. A spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office says it’s never been fired, but it’s intended for blasting off pepper spray at the county jail.
18 counties across the state have acquired more than 900 military rifles and pistols. Nearly 200 of them going to Hudson County alone, followed by over 100 military weapons going to Ocean County.
Five bomb disposal robots were ordered and shipped to Essex County.
And eight armored vehicles exist in or are coming to the state. The largest ones are headed to the suburbs. We took a ride on one owned by Middletown Township last week.
More than 60 face-shields, riot control gear and body armor have been shipped to Cape May and Monmouth Counties.
Essex County has acquired by far the most gear– owning over 40 percent of all the tactical equipment shipped to the state.
Concern over the program that makes this all this possible– was sparked after police in Ferguson, Missouri faced off with protestors in such gear.
“The more we see this gear begin to be used for ordinary law enforcement purposes and what that does is disproportionally impacts communities of color who bear the brunt of law enforcement generally and across the country bear the brunt of these tactics but secondly really erode trust between the communities and the police. The more that law enforcement agencies and officers begin to think of themselves as warriors on the battlefield the more they are gonna begin to think of the community as the enemy,” said Rosmarin.
New Jersey State Senator Nia Gill has written to New Jersey’s Attorney General calling for a state review of the program and for more information.
“Because the Federal Government will not provide the information as to which municipalities receive the military equipment, they will only tell you what counties. So I think it’s vitally important to find out what town and municipalities have possession of this military equipment, what it is and how and when will it be deployed,” said Gill.