For over 20 years, the Pentagon has been giving away surplus military gear to local police departments through the Department of Defense’s 1033 program. The program largely evaded public scrutiny until last year’s events in Ferguson literally drove big armored trucks into the national spotlight, sparking heated debate about police militarization.
Although law enforcement agencies have defended their use of combat equipment—citing hostage situations, terrorist attacks and mass shootings—a recent investigation by Mother Jones found that most cops aren’t putting those answers on their request forms.
The magazine obtained 465 requests for armored vehicles (specifically, the iconic mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP) filed with the Pentagon between 2012 and 2014, and very few forms specified any type of “worst-case scenario” as their reasoning.
No, the most common reason cops asked for armored trucks was to combat drugs.
According to Mother Jones, “fully a quarter of the 465 requests projected using the vehicles for drug enforcement,” with only seven percent mentioning potential hostage situations and six percent citing the possibility of active shooters.
An analysis of this data by the Washington Post found that at least seven police departments specifically cited marijuana in their requests—tying pot with meth for the most mentioned drug in the vehicle requests.
The Clearwater County Sheriff’s Department in Idaho requested one armored truck in 2013 to be “used for Drug and Marijuana eradication” and because “the nearest MRAP” was 6 hours away. Considering that the area’s population is less than 10,000 and that the number of marijuana grow sites discovered in all of Idaho last year was 4, the request seems ridiculous.
However, it was added to the Pentagon’s national priority list.
In fact, nearly all of the requests Mother Jones obtained were placed in line to receive MRAPS when the vehicles eventually return from overseas.
(Cover Photo Courtesy of DemocracyWeb.com)