Ga. agencies given $70 million in military surplus gear
ATLANTA (AP) — According to U.S. Department of Defense records, equipment ranging from an ice cream maker to grenade launchers has been given to Georgia law enforcement and government agencies through a federal military surplus program.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (http://bit.ly/1xhLCpv) Georgia agencies received more than $70 million in decommissioned military gear, mostly in the last three years.
Data shows Georgia’ surplus gear acquisitions jumped from roughly $6.7 million in 2012 to more than $36.4 million worth of gear in 2014. The newspaper reports more than 2,800 automatic rifles, bayonets, riot gear, and more than 400 vehicles including Humvees have been distributed through the department’s 1033 Program.
Robert Friedmann, a criminologist and director of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, said American police are trying to keep up with weapons that criminals are sometimes using against them on the street.
“If you look at some other police departments and agencies in other countries, the United States is an exception,” he said. “There is nowhere in the world where you have so many police officers killed on duty.”
However, Friedmann also said there are legitimate questions about how the gear is allocated and how authorities are trained to use it.
Critics of the military surplus program have said local police using advanced equipment can damage relationships with citizens that may already be fragile, or erode trust.
“That is the kind of equipment you use for a war. It’s not the kind of equipment you use to protect and serve,” said Occupy the Hood organizer Russell Robertson of Cobb County.
Some lawmakers, including Rep. Hank Johnson, D-GA, have called for legislation limiting the amount of free gear the military can transfer to local agencies.
Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com