When the police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., brought the Defense Department’s military surplus program to national scrutiny, MuckRock submitted public records requests to all 50 state coordinators. The Pentagon refuses to disclose which police departments received weapons, armored vehicles and bomb robots via the “1033 “program. To date, 37 states have released their spreadsheets, opening up the program to public accountability that was impossible before. Through data released so far, MuckRock has found mine-resistant vehicles, assault rifles and grenade launchers allocated to school district police in California, as well as armored vehicles distributed to New York law enforcement agencies as large as New York City and as small as the Quogue Village police.
Of the 13 states yet to disclose information, the reasons varied. The Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs cited an exemption for “investigating records compiled for law enforcement purposes,” but failed to explain how the 1033 program spreadsheets fall into this category. The Massachusetts State Police claimed that releasing the 1033 equipment transfer spreadsheet would “undermine public safety as it relates to security measures and emergency preparedness.” The North Carolina Department of Public Safety suggested that releasing the spreadsheet would “be like providing criminals a blueprint on how to harm law enforcement or get around their security tactics when trying to prevent crime and/or a serious event.” MuckRock appealed rejections for Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and South Dakota. There is no administrative appeal available to requesters in North Carolina and West Virginia.