Charting the $1.7B Transfer of Military Equipment to Police Departments
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In the wake of countrywide protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd, questions around the militarization of police forces have taken center stage once again.
How did so many police departments across the United States end up with bomb-proof trucks and night vision goggles? Where are departments acquiring this equipment, and at what cost?
These questions and more are answered by data from the Defense Logistics Agency, which oversees the 1033 Program. The visualization above tracks the flow of military equipment to law enforcement over the past decade.
A note on the data: Much of the equipment acquired through the program is already used – and often obsolete by military standards. As well, the 1033 dataset captures shipments of equipment. Over time, items can be transferred between departments, meaning these official records may be less reflective of specific police department inventories as time goes on. For these reasons, we decided to cap our analysis to looking at the last decade (2010-2020) of transfers.
Free Military Surplus for Law Enforcement
The 1033 Program was conceived in the years following Operation Desert Storm, just as America’s violent crime rate was hitting an all-time high. During this era, America’s “war on drugs” and tough-on-crime political platforms provided the impetus for the militarization of police forces around the country.
The 1033 program has been likened to Craigslist’s “Free Stuff” section, and the comparison is apt. The mechanics of the program are relatively straightforward. Outdated military gear is transferred (at no cost) to state and local law enforcement agencies who go through the application process. The equipment is loaned to agencies, who are only responsible only for shipping and subsequent operating costs (e.g. fuel, spare parts).
Law enforcement agencies gain access to a vast array of military surplus, from office supplies and thermal underwear up to armored vehicles and multi-million dollar communications systems. Also included in the mix are medical supplies and gear to aid in search and rescue operations. Since the program’s inception, over $7.4 billion worth of property has been transferred.
One of the most popular items acquired by police departments is the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP. Over the past decade, over 1,000 of these vehicles were transferred from the military to law enforcement agencies. This includes places like Monett, Missouri (population 9,000), which is on record as receiving two MRAP vehicles.
Night vision equipment is extremely popular as well. Items like goggles, scopes, and surveillance equipment – which can run thousands of dollars per unit – have been shipped to police departments around the country.
Of course, military surplus isn’t just about fancy vehicles and weaponry. The Meade County Sheriff’s Office in Kentucky is on record for ordering a single box of toilet paper just as COVID-19 was on the rise in that state.
Shipments at the State Level
Since the army is willing to part with excess equipment, cash-strapped police departments are happy to oblige. More than $1.7 billion of surplus has been transferred over to police around the country over the past decade.
The two biggest spenders, California and Texas, combined to acquire a total of $271 million in equipment, but looking at things on a per capita basis helps to show the states that were most enthusiastic about the 1033 Program in more relative terms.
|State||Value of equipment (2010-2020)||Value of equipment per capita|
Tennessee had by far the highest spending considering its population, with police departments in the state acquiring $20 worth of equipment per person. With the exception of Arizona, all the states that rank highly in that metric have per capita police spending that sits well below the U.S. average.
On the flip side, New York came in at a fraction of that amount, acquiring only $1.74 worth of equipment for every person in the state. Of course, it’s worth noting that New York had the highest police expenditure in the country (after Washington DC).
Who got the Goods?
Not surprisingly, state-level law enforcement agencies topped the list. For example, the Arizona Department of Public Safety received multiple airplanes valued at $17 million per unit. California’s highway patrol received the most expensive single item on the list – a $22 million aircraft.
For a more local perspective, here’s a look at the top 20 police departments by value of military equipment acquired:
|Law Enforcement Agency (Exc. state)||State||Value of Equipment Acquired|
|Houston Police Department||TX||$11,682,951|
|Las Vegas Metro Police Department||NV||$8,995,931|
|Washington County Sheriff's Office||TN||$7,501,075|
|Columbus Division of Police||OH||$6,885,949|
|Ventura County Sheriff's Office||CA||$6,605,678|
|Columbus County Sheriff's Office||NC||$6,596,927|
|Sacramento County Sheriff's Department||CA||$6,142,009|
|Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office||CA||$5,902,198|
|Hocking County Sheriff's Office||OH||$5,865,008|
|Jackson Police Department||MS||$5,823,634|
|Orange County Sheriff's Department||CA||$5,802,758|
|Lawrenceburg Police Department||TN||$5,543,166|
|Sherburne County Sheriff's Office||MN||$5,194,238|
|Kirklin Police Department||IN||$5,014,748|
|Los Angeles Country Sheriff's Department||CA||$4,840,970|
|King Country Sheriff's Department||WA||$4,618,686|
|Pinal Country Sheriff's Department||AZ||$4,305,849|
|Martin County Sheriff's Office||FL||$4,179,645|
|Kane County Sheriff's Office||IL||$4,006,465|
|Cottage Grove Police Department||MN||$3,941,606|
On its own, Houston police department received as much as the bottom five states combined. Nearly 400 other police departments also broke the $1 million barrier, and over 2,026 departments around the country received over $100,000 in goods.
Mapping Civil Unrest in the United States (2000–2020)
This map of civil unrest in the United States helps provide much needed context on how individual events fit within the nation-wide pattern over time.
Mapping Civil Unrest in the United States (2000–2020)
See a static version of these maps by clicking here.
Protests are a regular feature of democratic society, but they can occasionally cross over from non-violent demonstrations into civil unrest. Even protests that are largely peaceful can still result in arrests, violence, police aggression, and property damage.
Our animated map above looks at the last two decades of civil unrest in the United States using lists compiled on Wikipedia.
Instances of civil unrest eventually leave the news cycle, and we rarely have the chance to examine the bigger picture or see where they fit within a nation-wide pattern.
From this map we can see that certain cities, such as St. Louis and Oakland, have been disproportionately impacted by civil unrest. As well, universities have also been hotspots for rioting, though often for much different reasons.
Looking back over two decades, we see that instances of civil unrest in the United States have fallen into roughly four categories:
- Economic and social injustice
- Sports and event related riots
- Politically motivated civil unrest
- Reaction to police actions
Let’s take a look at a prominent example in each of these categories, to get further context.
Examples of Civil Unrest, by Category
1. Economic and Social Justice
One of the most prominent examples in this category is the Occupy Wall Street movement. The protests began in September 2011 in Downtown Manhattan, and soon spread through cities throughout the world.
In 2016, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests grabbed headlines around the world as protesters faced off against armed soldiers and police with riot gear and military equipment. By the time camps were broken up the next year, hundreds of people had been arrested.
2. Sports and Event Related Riots
Between 2000 and 2010, the majority of incidents plotted on the map are related to sports and events. This includes major sporting events like the L.A. Lakers championship win in 2000, but also the University of Maryland riot of 2004, where rowdy post-game celebrations crossed over into arson and property damage.
A more recent example is the Philadelphia Eagles’ first-ever Super Bowl victory in 2018, where celebrations eventually got out of hand.
3. Politically Motivated Civil Unrest
The political divide has been growing in America for years now, but those differences more frequently resulted in confrontations and civil unrest in 2016. After the election of Donald Trump, for example, protests erupted in many cities, with riots breaking out in Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, California.
Of course, the “Bundy standoff” – an armed confrontation between supporters of cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and law enforcement over withheld grazing fees – showed that not all civil unrest takes place in America’s cities.
4. Reaction to Police Actions
Some of the biggest flashpoints seen in recent years have been in response to people who were killed by police.
In fact, more than half of the points on our map were a direct response to incidents in which a person – typically a black male – died at the hands of law enforcement officials. In previous years, the unrest that followed was typically confined to the cities where the death took place, but protests are now increasingly erupting in cities around the country.
The Situation Now
The death of George Floyd – the latest black male to be killed during an encounter with law enforcement – has had a ripple effect, spawning protests in cities around the United States and internationally.
As our map showing the history of civil unrest makes clear, excessive force from police against black citizens is nothing new. The data shows that black men have by far the highest risk of being killed in an encounter with law enforcement.
Until these systemic issues are addressed, history may not be repeat exactly, but the rhyme will sound very, very familiar.
Visualizing America’s Energy Use, in One Giant Chart
This incredible flow diagram shows how U.S. energy use broke down in 2019, including by source and end sector.
Visualizing America’s Energy Use, in One Giant Chart
Have you ever wondered where the country’s energy comes from, and how exactly it gets used?
Luckily, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) crunches the numbers every year, outputting an incredible flow diagram that covers the broad spectrum of U.S. energy use.
The 2019 version of this comprehensive diagram gives us an in-depth picture of the U.S. energy ecosystem, showing not only where energy originates by fuel source (i.e. wind, oil, natural gas, etc.) but also how it’s ultimately consumed by sector.
In Perspective: 2019 Energy Use
Below, we’ll use the unit of quads, with each quad worth 1 quadrillion BTUs, to compare data for the last five years of energy use in the United States. Each quad has roughly the same amount of energy as contained in 185 million barrels of crude oil.
|Year||Energy Consumption||Change (yoy)||Fossil Fuels in Mix|
Interestingly, overall energy use in the U.S. actually decreased to 100.2 quads in 2019, similar to a decrease last seen in 2015.
It’s also worth noting that the percentage of fossil fuels used in the 2019 energy mix decreased by 0.2% from last year to make up 80.0% of the total. This effectively negates the small rise of fossil fuel usage that occurred in 2018.
Energy Use by Source
Which sources of energy are seeing more use, as a percentage of the total energy mix?
Since 2015, natural gas has grown from 29% to 32% of the U.S. energy mix — while coal’s role in the mix has dropped by 4.7%.
In these terms, it can be hard to see growth in renewables, but looking at the data in more absolute terms can tell a different story. For example, in 2015 solar added 0.532 quads of energy to the mix, while in 2019 it accounted for 1.04 quads — a 95% increase.
Finally, let’s take a look at where energy goes by end consumption, and whether or not this is evolving over time.
Residential, commercial, and industrial sectors are all increasing their use of energy, while the transportation sector is seeing a drop in energy use — likely thanks to more fuel efficient cars, EVs, public transport, and other factors.
The COVID-19 Effect on Energy Use
The energy mix is incredibly difficult to change overnight, so over the years these flow diagrams created by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have not changed much.
One exception to this will be in 2020, which has seen an unprecedented shutdown of the global economy. As a result, imagining the next iteration of this energy flow diagram is basically anybody’s guess.
We can likely all agree that it’ll include increased levels of energy consumption in households and shortfalls everywhere else, especially in the transportation sector. However, the total amount of energy used — and where it comes from — might be a significant deviation from past years.
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