Some 600 police departments and sheriff’s offices in Georgia have joined the many law enforcement agencies nationwide using military-grade equipment, once again raising concerns around local law enforcement’s need for such heavy duty weaponry.
As I reported in 2011, the Pentagon gives away military equipment to law enforcement agencies under the 1033 program in addition to military robots provided by the Department of Defense, police use of armored surveillance vehicles provided for nearly nothing by corporations, law enforcement use of tanks and armored personnel carriers and drones.
According to Georgia’s Department of Public Safety, the military equipment and weaponry owned by law enforcement agencies in the state is worth some $200 million, some of which is possessed by tiny departments with less than 20 officers.
In an attempt to justify this militarization, Bloomingdale Police Chief Roy Pike told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “officers ‘are armed to meet any threat,’ so criminals should just stay away.”
Yet Pike’s department, with a mere 13 officers, acquired a grenade launcher for shooting tear gas, two M14 semiautomatic rifles and two semiautomatic M16 rifles all through the Pentagon’s 1033 program, according to the Journal-Constitution.
The Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, which had 117 sworn law enforcement officers as of 2010, according to their most recent annual report on their website, similarly obtained four grenade launchers.