One of the most important things to come out of the Ferguson protests this past August was the widespread attention to the Pentagon’s 1033 program.
As we’ve documented here at Rare, the 1033 program transfers unneeded military equipment—from cameras to machine guns to mine-resistant vehicles that look a lot like tanks—to local police departments.
To show just how militarized their city’s police are—an important piece of context for the current protests—the Baltimore Sun is maintaining a list of all the 1033 shipments Maryland cops have received since Ferguson. And with 169 equipment transfers (and counting) in that eight-month period, it looks like the 1033 program is continuing apace.
Some of this stuff is harmless: one police department got an exercise bike and another got a fridge. But some of it definitely isn’t. In particular, rifles dominate the list, going by the dozen even to police departments in fairly rural, low-crime areas.
And, again, this is just the stuff since August 2014. But the 1033 program has been around much longer than that. It’s one reason why police-community relations in Baltimore are so tense.
As Rare’s Lucy Steigerwald explains, if police are armed like soldiers, it’s easy to slip into a warlike mindset:
So if police are fighting us, that explains their fear and their itchy-trigger fingers, and the lack of accountability for their sometimes-deadly actions. If cops today are warriors, they are by definition not de-escalators. They are supposed to win the war, not risk their own safety to make sure that a situation doesn’t turn violent. In short, soldier cops are dangerous to American freedoms.