Correction: The first version of this story was fundamentally flawed because it reported that local law enforcement agencies had purchased these goods. This was based on a misunderstanding of the data released by the federal government. The figures show how much the Pentagon originally paid for goods. Local agencies get the equipment for free. The story has been changed to reflect this. The Lens sincerely apologizes for the error. (Aug. 21, 2014)
This week, we’ve seen lots of pictures of police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, armed with military weapons. The same Pentagon program that arms cops in Ferguson also outfits police around New Orleans.
So when The New York Times released data on military equipment sent to state and local law enforcement agencies, we decided to take a look at what went to Orleans Parish and Jefferson Parish.
The relevant data is posted online. The figures show what each county in the United States received from the Defense Department’s 1033 Program since 2007.
The data comes with two important caveats. First, law enforcement agencies might purchase other equipment with their own money or with federal grants. So this is not a comprehensive list of all the military equipment these agencies have. Second, the data does not specify which agency received the equipment. Any one of the many police agencies in a parish could have gotten them.
What did New Orleans law enforcement get?
Here are some pieces of military equipment that went to police in New Orleans:
- Eight night-vision sniper scopes
- 20 snow camouflage parkas
- A “rough terrain” forklift
- 40 “laser modules”
- 14 thermal sights
- 21 7.62 mm rifles and two 5.56 mm rifles
- 30 survival axes
Some of the equipment is more mundane, such as:
- 360 men’s scarves
- Four data-entry computer mice
- Nine folding chairs
- One garbage can
- A pair of pliers
How about Jefferson Parish?
Law enforcement in Jefferson Parish received:
- Two 5.56 mm rifles and seven 7.62 mm rifles
- A utility helicopter
- A mine-resistant vehicle
- Three bridge erection boats
- A utility truck
- A personnel carrier
How much was all this worth?
Since 2007, Orleans Parish agencies have received gear that originally cost the federal government $240,993. Jefferson Parish agencies have gotten equipment that originally cost $2.6 million — including the mine-resistant vehicle, which cost the feds $733,000.
The surplus program is free for local governments, though they may have to pay to transport the gear. For instance, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said his agency spent $10,000 on a working UH-1 helicopter and parts, which originally cost the federal government about $922,000.
Does New Orleans get a lot of military equipment or a little?
A quick look shows that the Orleans Parish has received more in equipment — measured by the original purchase price — than Caddo Parish (Shreveport) but less than Ouachita Parish (Monroe).