Eight months after the confrontations in Ferguson, Mo., between heavily armed police and protesters, legislators in more than a half-dozen states are trying to rein in militarization of their police forces, Stateline reports. They say they want to prevent similar highly weaponized responses in their states. The legislative response — backed by Democrats and Republicans, in red states and blue states — is a reaction to what one critic calls the “law enforcement-industrial complex.” “You get these pictures that just shock the conscience,” said Republican state Sen. Branden Petersen of Minnesota. His bill would bar law enforcement from accepting gear that's “designed to primarily have a military purpose or offensive capability.” Petersen and those backing similar efforts in other states, including California, Connecticut, Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont, face an uphill climb.
The equipment flows through a Pentagon surplus operation known as the 1033 Program, which has distributed $5.4 billion in free equipment since 1997. A Stateline analysis finds that the 50 states hold nearly $1.7 billion worth of equipment, an average of nearly $34 million per state. Per capita equipment values held by states range from less than $1 for Alaska, Pennsylvania and Hawaii to more than $14 for Alabama, Florida, New Mexico and Tennessee.