22 October 2013, 16:14

US state refuses to disclose records on police militarization

US state refuses to disclose records on police militarization

In Utah, Connor Boyack of the libertarian-leaning Libertas Institute has recently filed a state open records request with the Utah Department of Administrative Services. He wanted to get information on how police agencies are using Pentagon’s 1033 program but his request was rejected.

The 1033 Program permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer, excess US Department of Defense supplies and equipment to state and local law enforcement agencies without charge.

The Pentagon's program provides police agencies across the country with surplus military equipment: think guns, tanks, helicopters, grenade launchers, computer equipment, body armor, fingerprint equipment, night vision equipment etc.

Connor Boyack wanted to get information on how Utah police agencies are using the program, but his request was rejected. According to Title 63G Chapter 2 Section 305 of Utah’s legislation, the state can withhold records if releasing them would “jeopardize the life or safety of an individual”, “the security of governmental property, governmental programs, or governmental recordkeeping systems from damage, theft, or other appropriation or use contrary to law or public policy” and “jeopardize the security or safety of a correctional facility, or records relating to incarceration, treatment, probation, or parole, that would interfere with the control and supervision of an offender's incarceration, treatment, probation, or parole.”

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has launched last spring a campaign to assess police militarization in the US.

ACLU affiliates in 23 states have been sending open records requests to state and local police agencies requesting data about their SWAT teams: how often, for what reasons they are deployed, what types of weapons are used, how often citizens are injured during SWAT raids, how they are funded.

"The aim of this investigation is to find out just how pervasive this is, and to what extent federal funding is incentivizing this trend," said Kara Dansky, senior counsel at the ACLU's Center for Justice.

"You may remember the story from late last year about Pargould, Arkansas, where the mayor and police chief announced that they were going to send the SWAT team out on routine patrols in 'problem neighborhoods' to stop and harass the people who lived in them. After the story made national news, they changed that policy. But how many places is this happening where it isn't making news? That's one of the things we're hoping to find out," Dansky added.

Dansky said the ACLU is ready to go to court in case it won’t get access to the data it’s searching for: "We don't expect we'll need to for information on the equipment these police agencies have received from the Defense Department or Homeland Security," she said. "But if we need to challenge these departments on the information about their SWAT teams, we'll do that. And if these police agencies do refuse to release this public information to our affiliates, that in itself is something the public should know."

The 1033 Program was passed by Congress in 1997. “However, even then, their justification was that it would be used to fight drugs and terrorism and since it began, over 17,000 law enforcement agencies have accepted $2.6 billion in military equipment, only having to pay for the cost of delivering the gear”, says Madison Ruppert in his article.

“While the gear is practically free, the costs of maintaining the equipment and insuring it fall on the respective law enforcement agencies, meaning it falls directly on the taxpayer… Considering that the helicopter was used only 10 missions per year on average, the cost of nearly 54,800 per year, or almost $5,480 per mission (not including personnel, fuel, etc.) hardly seems justified,” he adds.

Ruppert concludes: “The greater trend towards militarizing domestic police forces shows that our illegitimate government is increasingly treating all Americans as the enemy, effectively turning the bloody military “counterterrorism” apparatus around and redirecting the resources to the United States.”

Voice of Russia, The Huffington Post, justnet.org, activistpost.com

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