From NOLA.com, “Since 2013, the U.S military has delivered 18-mine resistant vehicles worth up to $733,000 each to police departments in Louisiana, according to a database compiled by the Detroit Free Press. Departments in Jefferson and St. Tammany Parish each obtained one of the vehicles, known as MRAPs, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected, while departments in East Baton Rouge and Rapides parishes obtained two each.
The vehicles were among a host of excess military equipment picked up by local police departments thanks to a 1997 defense bill that allows law enforcement agencies to obtain surplus military equipment, with a preference given to anti-drug and counter-terrorism efforts. The program is now under intense scrutiny after officials in Ferguson, Mo., responded to unrest over the killing of an unarmed black teen-ager with sophisticated military equipment.
The response, which critics have called massive overreach that tended to provoke, rather than quell the unrest, has led some in Congress to call for scrapping the distribution of military equipment, or at the very least a top-to-bottom review of the program. Both conservatives and liberals have raised concerns about the program, ranging from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a Tea Party favorite, to the American Civil Liberties Union.
But police departments strongly defend the program, arguing the sophisticated equipment is needed by police to deal with well-armed drug gangs and terrorism threats. In Louisiana, the program has proved a source of powerful military assault rifles, tanks capable of transporting police through bullets, helicopters and boats, according to the Free Press database. The database lists the parishes and counties that received each piece of military equipment, but doesn’t specify which individual police department obtained the material.
Here are some examples from the Free Press database:
In 2009, Jefferson Parish received a $923,000 helicopter under the program — the most expensive equipment listed under the program for Louisiana law enforcement.
In 2013, Jefferson, Franklin and Ouachita parishes received full track personnel carriers, generally used to carry infantry to and from battles.
Jefferson also received three boats in 2009, valued at $210,000 each.
Some question whether local law enforcement officers receive the training to use sophisticated military equipment. “I have gotten word that some of these police departments who have received this equipment have not been properly trained in its use by the military,” said Rep. William Clay, D-Mo., who represents Ferguson.
President Barack Obama addressed the unrest in Ferguson at a Monday news conference, while calling for a review of military equipment transfers to police departments.
“While I understand the passions and the anger that arise over the death of Michael Brown, giving into that anger by looting or carrying guns, and even attacking the police only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos,” Obama said. “It undermines rather than advancing justice.”
“There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement, and we don’t want those lines blurred. That would be contrary to our traditions.”
Earlier, The New York Times released a database that showed East Baton Rouge Parish has received 558 assault rifles, 21 pistols, eight shotguns, plus the two mine-resistant vehicles. It’s unclear if equipment received by Louisiana State Police would be included in the East Baton Rouge Parish data.
The parish with the second most assault rifles was Caddo Parish, which received 229 assault rifles. Orleans Parish received a comparatively low 23 assault rifles.
Orleans Parish also received 286 night vision pieces.
Jefferson Parish received nine assault rifles, according to the Times database.
See the full article on NOLA.com (link)
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