In recent years, images have proliferated in the media of American law enforcement intervening in protests – donning helmets, toting assault rifles, and marching alongside armored vehicles. While many Americans have been shocked by such displays, the militarization of police departments across the country is nothing new.
In the 1990s, an era of high crime marked by an escalation of the war on drugs in cities across the country, Congress authorized the National Defense Authorization Act, also known as the 1033 Program. Under the NDAA, state and local law enforcement agencies could procure excess military weapons and equipment from the Department of Defense.
Since the program’s inception, the DOD has transferred $7.6 billion in military equipment to law enforcement agencies across the country. And while law enforcement agencies do not pay for this equipment, they are responsible for costs related to shipping, maintenance, and storage. In recent years, every state except Hawaii has used the program to acquire excess military weapons and equipment.
According to data from the Defense Logistics Agency, 111 law enforcement agencies in Minnesota acquired surplus military equipment between 2010 and the first quarter of 2023. To better reflect increasing militarization of American law enforcement, items determined by the DOD to present a “low risk” when released from federal control were not included in our analysis. Such items include tents, forklifts, firearm slings, picnic tables, and boots.
The combined value of this equipment, as measured by the original price paid by the military, totals $54,888,651 – the 10th most among the 49 participating states. The Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office received 12.1% of this equipment, as measured by its monetary value, the most of any law enforcement agency in the state.
|Rank||State||Total value of military equipment acquired from 2010-2023 Q1 ($)||Law enforcement agencies receiving military equipment|