Colorado police departments from Burlington to La Plata County have received $22 million worth of military grade equipment, including 1,160 M-16 rifles and nine mine resistant vehicles (MRAPs), under the Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, which dispenses surplus military gear to state and local authorities, 9News has reported.
The program was initially authorized by Congress in the early 90s to transfer excess military property to federal and state agencies for use in fighting drug trafficking. The program spread to local law enforcement agencies in 1997.
The response by police in Ferguson, Mo., to rioting after an unarmed black teen was shot to death by a white police officer drew renewed attention to the program. Officers there put their military gear on full display in standing off the protests. Critics charge the 1033 program has led to militarization of community police departments.
As the dispute has simmered, The New York Times reported that at least 124 colleges have also acquired war equipment from the Defense Department. Some members of Congress have called for changes in the program. President Obama has also called for a review.
After a Colorado Open Records Act Request, 9News analyzed the data maintained by the Colorado State Patrol regarding military equipment transfers to law enforcement agencies in the state.
Reporter Chris Vanderveen wrote that most departments in Colorado have tried to take advantage of the program. The Florence Police Department in Fremont County, which borders the Federal Supermax Prison, has received the most equipment, more than $3.7 million worth, including a $700,000 mine resistant vehicle, two $200,000 armored vehicles, one dump truck, and 10 M-16’s.
In addition to Florence, eight other Colorado police departments have received MRAPs: Aurora, Greeley, La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, Montrose, Pueblo, Vail, Weld County Sheriff’s Office and the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, according to the report.