Police in Washington state got military hardware even under Obama-era restrictions

Despite critics who fear U.S. police are becoming militarized, President Donald Trump has lifted Obama-era restrictions on transfer of some surplus military hardware to civilian law-enforcement agencies. But the “1033 Program” has been going strong in Washington all along.

President Donald Trump last week lifted Obama-era restrictions on the transfer of surplus military hardware to police departments; however, a review of Defense Department data shows the flow of materiel actually increased in Washington state despite the prohibition on some items.

Since the inception of the Department of Defense’s so-called “1033 Program” as part of Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs in 1991, more than $30.2 million in surplus military gear has been given to state law-enforcement agencies.

Of that total, items worth roughly $9.4 million — from body bags to mine-resistant vehicles — were distributed between January 2015 and June 30 of this year — most after Obama restricted distribution of some items, according to a Seattle Times review of data provided by the Defense Logistics Agency.

The continued popularity of the program among law-enforcement agencies baffles civil libertarians, who fear police are becoming militarized and wonder what lessons have been learned from the growing outcry over police violence and use of force. It was the police response to the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer that prompted the Obama review of the program.

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“At a time of great concern about excessive use of force by law enforcement, especially against communities of color, it defies reason to arm local police with weapons of war,” said Kathleen Taylor, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.

“Military weaponry is designed to be used against enemies abroad and should not be brought home for use against our own people,” she said.

However, law-enforcement officials in Washington and elsewhere say the program allows police to obtain equipment that they would be unable to afford otherwise. They also note the items are not just military-grade vehicles and weaponry, but also first-aid kits, clothing, flashlights, tools, office supplies and even exercise equipment.

Since Obama ordered a review of the 1033 program, five Washington…

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