The Militarization Of North Carolina's Police

Dec 10, 2014

Saint Paul, Minnesota police officers during the 2008 Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center.
Credit Tony Webster

Police departments across the state of North Carolina are arming themselves with the same weapons and gear as the U.S. military. 

This is thanks to the federal 1033 Excess Property Program which allows police departments across the nation to apply for surplus military equipment, like M-16 rifles, helicopters and IED resistant vehicles along with general office supplies like computers.

'The program was remarkably small for its first 20 years, but after 9/11 it sky rocketed and agencies all over the country started applying for this grab bag of giveaways.'

Reporter Jon Elliston of Carolina Public Press says that the program goes back to the end of the Cold War when Congress directed the Department of Defense to start offloading some of its surplus gear. 

Elliston says at that time, bases around the country were closing and "the thinking was that [the surplus gear] could be of use to state and local agencies and could save them some money while increasing their capacity."

"The program was remarkably small for its first 20 years, but after 9/11 it sky rocketed and agencies all over the country started applying for this grab bag of giveaways," says Elliston.

More than $5 billion dollars worth of military equipment has been distributed across the country since the program began. North Carolina has accumulated approximately $16.5 million of surplus gear since 1990, which is relatively a small number compared to other states.

The nonprofit investigative news services  The Marshall Project created a searchable, itemized list detailing what each agency throughout the state has received from the program. Click on the name of the county or agency to see what kind of equipment that was awarded:

After the militarized response to protestors in Ferguson, MO reporters nationwide started to investigate the Pentagon’s program.

North Carolina's Department of Public Safety (DPS) refused to share details about its participation in the program with WRAL out of fear of that the information could be used by "people who would use it to the detriment of our law enforcement professionals and potentially the public."

But despite DPS's unwillingness to share details, several local agencies released information, and now a new report released by the Department of Defense reveals a full inventory of gear received by counties across the state.

North Carolina is currently suspended from the 1033 Excess Property Program due to administrative error, but the state is currently working to resolve the issue with the Department of Defense.

Reporters around the state continue to uncover details about acquisitions in their own region.