Criminal Justice

Local law enforcement agencies receive snow camouflage, mine-resistant vehicle from federal government

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:

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).


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  • The Racket

    Truth is, the citizenry in this city, state and general part of the country are armed to the teeth. If sh*t hit the fan here, for whatever reason, it wouldn’t be pretty. It’s fine for the police to have some toys if the intent isn’t to become tyrannical. In Ferguson, it was as much about PR and an illustration of police capacity as it was about trying to secure the area—a pecker measuring exercise with a bunch of people excited to get dressed up. Police are our neighbors though, and most are just working to support families, trying to keep their jobs, and more or less feel the same about the state of the world as everyone else. If push comes to shove, I have to imagine that most would be on the side of the people. I could be wrong.

  • Some Guy

    Just so people know, when you buy military equipment from the FED… they sell it in lots. In just about every lot there is some useless item that no person would ever buy and they pawn it off with more desirable items. This helps the government cut down on garbage and destruction fees by farming out the costs to others.

    All those mundane items came in a lot with the more desirable items as their selling point.

  • Will Johnson

    Oops sorry we were just kidding! One of our captains decided to have a big joke on New Orleans, and included the snow parkas!! We didn’t realize it would go this far.

  • nickelndime

    I see a problem with the increased militarization of local police departments in this country. It supposes that local police are soldiers and we-the-people are the enemy. If they want to dress up like soldiers or use military equipment, they should join one of the branches of the Armed Services. I shudder to think of NOPD officers Lewis and Gantner armed to the teeth with military gear. Remember how the guy was shot in the forehead during a traffic stop?