Crime isn't rampant in Grandview, Wa., population 10,862, with three robberies, six aggravated assaults, 10 rapes, and no homicides last year. The Seattle Times says that didn't stop the Grandview Police Department from using the Defense Department's surplus materiel program to equip a tactical team made up of 10 of its 17 officers. The department got 1,400 pounds of expended brass cartridges for reloading, five sets of $3,000 night-vision goggles, 14 laser-sights, five rifles, ammo magazines and bandoleers, and medic and survival kits, all at little or no cost. The biggest-ticket item is a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, known as an MRAP, valued at $412,000.
Grandview Assistant Police Chief Mike Hopp acknowledges the routine need for a tactical police response in Grandview can be limited. “We use it. It keeps our guys safe,” he said of the MRAP. “But we don't use it a lot.” Critics say the virtually unrestricted distribution of military-style hardware to law-enforcement agencies leads to more confrontation between police and the communities, and potentially the use of more force in resolving them. “If you have it, you want to use it,” said Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska in Omaha. “And then you start seeing yourself in military terms.” Under the Defense Department program, thousands of military items have been provided to any law-enforcement agency that fills out an application. In some cases, the military paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the items. Police get them for a nominal fee, usually the equivalent of shipping and handling.