The police officers on our streets and in our neighborhoods are not soldiers fighting a war. Yet many have been armed with tactics and weapons designed for battle overseas. The result: people – disproportionately those in poor communities and communities of color – have become targets for violent SWAT raids, often because the police suspect they have small amounts of drugs in their homes.
This is a problem.
Billions of dollars' worth of military weapons and equipment is available to local police departments through grant programs administered by federal agencies such as the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security. Until now, this has gone on with very little public oversight. Too little has been known about how much military equipment law enforcement agencies have, why they have it, and how they are using it.
It's time to understand the true scope of the militarization of policing in America and the impact it is having in our neighborhoods. In 2013, ACLU affiliates in 25 states filed over 260 public records requests with law enforcement agencies to document the impact of excessively militarized policing on people, families, and communities.
Stay tuned as this project develops.
Check out this map of the law enforcement agencies with which ACLU Affiliates have filed public records requests.