Opinion | posted: 5/16/2016 1:00 AM
Lavish local spending on surplus military gear
By Adam Andrzejewski
Despite public outcry, new federal data shows that 2014 and 2015 were peak years for shipments of surplus military gear to local police departments across America. In Illinois, local police continued to procure a largesse of military gear.
Last week, our organization released the study "OpenTheBooks Snapshot Report -- The Militarization of Local Police Departments" that quantified the transfer of 1.5 million weapons-related items from the Department of Defense to federal, state and local police departments since 2006.
We found a federally sponsored "gun show" that never ends. Across Illinois, small-town police are now armed with M16 and M14 rifles, night-vision and armored trucks. In 2014, DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba procured a mine resistant vehicle (MRV). Even local park districts and forest preserves stocked up on weapons and military-style equipment.
In total, our new data reveals $2.2 billion worth of military gear including helicopters and airplanes, armored trucks and cars, tens of thousands of M16 and M14 rifles, thousands of bayonets, mine detectors, and many other types of weaponry.
Here's a cross-section of the $70 million in surplus military-weaponry and equipment distributed to law enforcement within Illinois:
• 399 military trucks ($17.9 million); 16 mine-resistant vehicles ($11.1 million); 13 helicopters ($4.3 million); and seven armored trucks and cars ($1 million);
• 4,352 M16 and M14 rifles (5.56mm and 7.62mm) ($1.8 million); 681 pistols (. 38 and .45 caliber) ($77,845); and 69 riot 12-gauge shotguns ($7,265);
• 399 night-vision sights, sniper scopes, binoculars, goggles, infrared and image magnifiers ($3.6 million);
• 45 bayonets and even one sword with scabbard.
A few examples of the local and regional law enforcement weaponry largesse:
In DuPage County, in addition to the MRV, the sheriff's office also procured 43 M16 and M14 rifles, and four explosive ordinance disposal robots. In response to a separate FOIA from the Edgar County Watchdogs, the sheriff admitted to a gun inventory of over 450 weapons.
The College of DuPage received 14 M16 rifles and the DuPage County Forest Preserve netted five .45 caliber pistols and four M16 and seven M14 rifles. The police department in Wheaton picked up 65 M16 rifles.
In Chicago, the embattled police department procured 159 "ground troop helmets," 372 M16 and M14 rifles, and an MRV.
Even the small, north-shore enclave of Glencoe accepted 10 M16 and M14 rifles, eight .45 caliber pistols and a military-utility truck. Evanston is a community known to promote gun-control ordinances, but its police department procured 20 M16 rifles.
Every single sheriff around Cook County received military-armored vehicles. Kendall County procured five military-utility trucks, an MRV, and 18 M16/M14 rifles. Lake County procured three armored trucks and 25 M14 rifles. McHenry County procured an MRV, a military-truck/tractor, three utility trucks, 19 riot 12-gage shotguns, and 31 M16 and M14 rifles. Will County procured two utility trucks and 90 M16 rifles.
But, the Kane County Sheriff procured an MRV, two combat/tactical/assault wheeled vehicles, five military trucks, an explosive ordinance disposal robot, 50 electric pulse pistols, 30 flash suppressors, 22 infrared or night vision googles, and 70 M16 and M14 rifles.
Many small towns received military weapons. In rural Will County, Beecher (pop. 4,451) received 11 M16 and M14 rifles, Crete (pop. 8,230) received 24 M16 rifles, and Peotone (pop. 4,133) received six M16 and M14 rifles.
Many of the DOD weapons transfers have a questionable law enforcement purpose. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources received 174 M16 and M14 rifles. Why? To enforce hunting laws?
It's no secret the American people are distrustful of our political class and rightly so. But transparency can help restore trust by giving people the information they need to hold elected officials accountable.
Adam Andrzejewski is the CEO of OpenTheBooks.com, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to monitoring government spending.