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 Outdated military gear is transferred (at no cost) to state and local law enforcement agencies who go through the application process.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.
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3 Insights From the FED’s Latest Economic Snapshot
Stay up to date on the U.S. economy with this infographic summarizing the most recent Federal Reserve data released.
3 Insights From the Latest U.S. Economic Data
Each month, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York publishes monthly economic snapshots.
To make this report accessible to a wider audience, we’ve identified the three most important takeaways from the report and compiled them into one infographic.
1. Growth figures in Q2 will make or break a recession
Generally speaking, a recession begins when an economy exhibits two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Because U.S. GDP shrank by -1.5% in Q1 2022 (January to March), a lot rests on the Q2 figure (April to June) which should be released on July 28th.
Referencing strong business activity and continued growth in consumer spending, economists predict that U.S. GDP will grow by +2.1% in Q2. This would mark a decisive reversal from Q1, and put an end to recessionary fears for the time being.
Unfortunately, inflation is the top financial concern for Americans, and this is dampening consumer confidence. Shown below, the consumer confidence index reflects the public’s short-term outlook for income, business, and labor conditions.
Falling consumer confidence suggests that more people will delay big purchases such as cars, major appliances, and vacations.
2. The COVID-era housing boom could be over
Housing markets have been riding high since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but this run is likely coming to an end. Here’s a summary of what’s happened since 2020:
- Lockdowns in early 2020 created lots of pent-up demand for homes
- Greater household savings and record-low mortgage rates pushed demand even further
- Supply chain disruptions greatly increased the cost of materials like lumber
- Construction of new homes couldn’t keep up, and housing supply fell to historic lows
Today, home prices are at record highs and the cost of borrowing is rapidly rising. For evidence, look no further than the 30-year fixed mortgage rate, which has doubled to more than 6% since the beginning of 2022.
Given these developments, the drop in the number of home sales could be a sign that many Americans are being priced out of the market.
3. Don’t expect groceries to become any cheaper
Inflation has been a hot topic this year, especially with gas prices reaching $5 a gallon. But there’s one category of goods that’s perhaps even more alarming: food.
The following table includes food inflation over the past three years, as the percent change over the past 12 months.
|Date||CPI Food Component (%)|
From this data, we can see that food inflation really picked up speed in April 2020, jumping to +3.5% from +1.9% in the previous month. This was due to supply chain disruptions and a sudden rebound in global demand.
Fast forward to today, and food inflation is running rampant at 10.1%. A contributing factor is the impending fertilizer shortage, which stems from the Ukraine war. As it turns out, Russia is not only a massive exporter of oil, but wheat and fertilizer as well.
Mapped: A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties
This map shows which counties in the U.S. have seen the most growth, and which places have seen their populations dwindle in the last 10 years.
A Decade of Population Growth and Decline in U.S. Counties
There are a number of factors that determine how much a region’s population changes.
If an area sees a high number of migrants, along with a strong birth rate and low death rate, then its population is bound to increase over time. On the flip side, if more people are leaving the area than coming in, and the region’s birth rate is low, then its population will likely decline.
Which areas in the United States are seeing the most growth, and which places are seeing their populations dwindle?
This map, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, shows a decade of population movement across U.S. counties, painting a detailed picture of U.S. population growth between 2010 and 2020.
Counties With The Biggest Population Growth from 2010-2020
To calculate population estimates for each county, the U.S. Census Bureau does the following calculations:
From 2010 to 2020, Maricopa County in Arizona saw the highest increase in its population estimate. Over a decade, the county gained 753,898 residents. Below are the counties that saw the biggest increases in population:
|Rank||County||Point of Reference||State||Pop. Growth (2010–2020)|
|#1||Maricopa County||Phoenix, Scottsdale||Arizona||+753,898|
|#3||Clark County||Las Vegas||Nevada||+363,323|
|#5||Tarrant County||Fort Worth, Arlington||Texas||+305,180|
|#6||Bexar County||San Antonio||Texas||+303,982|
|#7||Riverside County||Riverside, Palm Springs||California||+287,626|
Phoenix and surrounding areas grew faster than any other major city in the country. The region’s sunny climate and amenities are popular with retirees, but another draw is housing affordability. Families from more expensive markets—California in particular—are moving to the city in droves. This is a trend that spilled over into the pandemic era as more people moved into remote and hybrid work situations.
Texas counties saw a lot of growth as well, with five of the top 10 gainers located in the state of Texas. A big draw for Texas is its relatively affordable housing market. In 2021, average home prices in the state stood at $172,500—$53,310 below the national average.
Counties With The Biggest Population Drops from 2010-2020
On the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s a look at the top 10 counties that saw the biggest declines in their populations over the decade:
|Rank||County||Point of Reference||State||Pop. Growth (2010–2020)|
|#5||Suffolk County||Long Island||New York||-20,064|
|#9||Kanawha County||Charleston||West Virginia||-16,672|
The largest drops happened in counties along the Great Lakes, including Cook County (which includes the city of Chicago) and Wayne County (which includes the city of Detroit).
For many of these counties, particularly those in America’s “Rust Belt”, population drops over this period were a continuation of decades-long trends. Wayne County is an extreme example of this trend. From 1970 to 2020, the area lost one-third of its population.
U.S. Population Growth in Percentage Terms (2010-2020)
While the map above is great at showing where the greatest number of Americans migrated, it downplays big changes in counties with smaller populations.
For example, McKenzie County in North Dakota, with a 2020 population of just 15,242, was the fastest-growing U.S. county over the past decade. The county’s 138% increase was driven primarily by the Bakken oil boom in the area. High-growth counties in Texas also grew as new sources of energy were extracted in rural areas.
The nation’s counties are evenly divided between population increase and decline, and clear patterns emerge.
Pandemic Population Changes
More recent population changes reflect longer-term trends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the counties that saw the strongest population increases were located in high-growth states like Florida and Texas.
Below are the 20 counties that grew the most from 2020 to 2021.
|Rank||County||Point of Reference||State||Pop. Growth (2020–2021)|
|#3||Riverside County||Riverside, Palm Springs||California||+35,631|
|#4||Fort Bend County||Sugar Land||Texas||+29,895|
|#8||Montgomery County||The Woodlands||Texas||+23,948|
|#9||Lee County||Fort Myers||Florida||+23,297|
|#11||Pinal County||San Tan Valley||Arizona||+19,974|
|#12||Clark County||Las Vegas||Nevada||+19,090|
|#13||Pasco County||New Port Richey||Florida||+18,322|
|#14||Wake County||Raleigh||North Carolina||+16,651|
|#15||St. Johns County||St. Augustine||Florida||+15,550|
|#17||Bexar County||San Antonio||Texas||+14,184|
|#20||St. Lucie County||Fort Pierce||Florida||+12,304|
Many of these counties are located next to large cities, reflecting a shift to the suburbs and larger living spaces. However, as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and the pandemic housing boom tapers off due to rising interest rates, it remains to be seen whether the suburban shift will continue, or if people begin to migrate back to city centers.
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