Marking the one-year anniversary of the militarized police crackdown on protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, Molly Redden wrote a fascinating piece for Mother Jones on how local law enforcement agencies have justified their requests for "combat style weapons, trucks, and armor." Redden noted that in public, representatives of police organizations have cited "hostage situations, rescue missions, and heavy-duty shootouts" to justify the need for military equipment. But when requesting mine resistant ambush protected vehicles through official channels, "very few sheriffs and police chiefs cite active shooters, hostage situations, or terrorism […]." More often, they indicated plans to use the equipment for SWAT raids, drug enforcement, or serving warrants.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, Redden obtained more than 450 local requests for armored vehicles submitted during the past two years. She uploaded the documents here. Ten requests came from Iowa law enforcement agencies (the Iowa State Patrol, five county sheriff’s offices, and four city police departments). Those may not represent all the Iowa requests for armored vehicles; Redden told me she requested only applications with something written in the “special considerations” section of the form. However, I would assume that most police forces seeking to obtain heavy equipment from the military would explain why they need the armored vehicle and/or how they plan to use it.
After the jump I’ve enclosed links to the Iowa documents obtained by Redden and quoted each police or sheriff’s department explanation for requesting an armored vehicle.
President Barack Obama implemented new federal rules in May to prohibit transfers of certain military equipment to local police: namely, “tracked armored vehicles, bayonets, grenade launchers, camouflage uniforms, and large-caliber weapons and ammunition.” All of the Iowa documents Redden obtained requested armored vehicles on wheels (though the Scott County Sheriff’s Office indicated it would also accept tracked vehicles).
On a related note, in June the U.S. House rejected amendments to next year’s military budget that would have “prohibited funds from being used for the Pentagon to transfer flash-bang grenades and armored vehicles to local police departments.” Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) voted for the unsuccessful attempt to stop transfers of armored vehicles to police departments. Democrat Dave Loebsack (IA-02) and Republican Steve King (IA-04) voted against that amendment.Continue Reading...