Pew offers a 50-state look at police use of military surplus

The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonpartisan think tank, has conducted a 50-state look at the military equipment handed down from the federal government to state and local law enforcement and Georgia ranks high.

In total value, Georgia is fifth overall among states with more than $70 million in surplus gear, including mine-resistant vehicles, grenade launchers and lots of guns. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about this in December, but the Pew study measures it by state population. In this way, Georgia is still up there, but behind states like Maine and Wyoming which took significantly less material, but they have a much smaller population too.

DNR Training M16

Georgia Department of Natural Resources officers train to use surplus  M-16 military rifles at the Alto State Prison shooting range.             AJC/Submitted

Georgia law enforcement has received $7.08 worth of surplus military gear for every man, woman and child in the state. You can compare that to $1.56 per capita in North Carolina to see that Georgia is a national leader in tapping the 1033 Program — as the federal requisition program is known — but it’s well behind some other states.

Tennessee leads the Pew survey with $18.32 in equipment per capita, paced by some 31 mine-resistant vehicles.

The dollar figures are illustrative of how active states have been in requisitioning military gear for law enforcement work, but states aren’t really buying the material. Aside from shipping, the 1033 Program sends the materials to the states free of charge and police officials in Georgia and elsewhere have defended the practice as a budget-savvy move.

Following last year’s unrest in Ferguson, Mo., some state legislatures have moved to restrict the flow of military gear, as the Pew study notes. There’s no such legislative effort underway in Georgia.





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