WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder has called for an investigation into the programs that provide military-grade items to local police departments.
A number of federal programs distribute excess military gear to local police and sheriff’s departments who apply for it. In Maryland, state police have coordinated the distribution of equipment from the Defense Logistics Agency’s 1033 program since 1996, says Greg Shipley, Maryland State Police spokesman.
The federal program was part of the National Defense Authorization Act. It began in 1991 in an effort to counteract growing drug-related crimes and was revised in 1997 to include counterterrorism, according to the Law Enforcement Support Office.
The state police say 80 Maryland law enforcement agencies have military equipment in their hands. More than 100 are registered with the federal 1033 program.
Items that are categorized as “sensitive” have to be itemized, Shipley says. That includes firearms and bomb-resistant vehicles.
“We have 162 patrol rifles that were obtained through this program. They were assigned to 142 state troopers across the state trained in how to use them and when to use them,” Shipley says.
Color guards across the state use 26 non-functioning M-14 rifles acquired through the DLA program for ceremonial use.
“And we have three Humvees. One assigned to our SWAT team and two assigned to our westernmost counties for use out there during flooding and significant snow storms,” Shipley says.
Most of the items the program transfers are at no cost to the law enforcement agencies in Maryland. Also, most of the items are not considered sensitive.
“That includes everything from camera lenses, which were assigned to the crime lab, to furniture for our barracks,” he says.
Using the items provided by the program save taxpayers money, Shipley says.
See an itemized list of which departments participate in the program and the items they’ve obtained through the federal program below.