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Charting the $1.7B Transfer of Military Equipment to Police Departments

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transfer of military equipment to police departments 1033 program

Charting the $1.7B Transfer of Military Equipment to Police Departments

View the full-size version of this infographic.

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 Outdated military gear is transferred (at no cost) to state and local law enforcement agencies who go through the application process.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.

military equipment 1033 program

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.

StateValue of equipment (2010-2020)Value of equipment per capita
Texas$141,519,366$4.88
California$130,221,309$3.30
Tennessee$130,062,523$19.05
Florida$95,179,044$4.43
Arizona$91,577,274$12.58
Alabama$82,629,461$16.85
South Carolina$74,315,198$14.43
Ohio$65,049,414$5.56
Georgia$57,636,601$5.43
Michigan$49,757,677$4.98
North Carolina$48,778,465$4.65
Minnesota$46,840,016$8.31
New Jersey$45,730,823$5.15
Wisconsin$44,408,319$7.63
Indiana$41,078,563$6.10
Illinois$40,532,438$3.20
Washington$35,296,239$4.64
New York$33,808,332$1.74
Kentucky$33,648,076$7.53
Arkansas$33,138,525$10.98
Missouri$29,162,261$4.75
Colorado$28,141,088$4.89
Oklahoma$27,580,744$6.97
Louisiana$25,268,136$5.44
Virginia$24,028,710$2.82
Pennsylvania$21,466,651$1.68
Nevada$21,232,353$6.89
New Mexico$20,892,590$9.96
Connecticut$20,493,905$5.75
Oregon$19,677,189$4.67
Mississippi$16,027,579$5.39
West Virginia$14,019,400$7.82
Iowa$12,721,978$4.03
North Dakota$11,249,990$14.76
Idaho$11,219,248$6.28
Utah$10,468,929$3.27
Maine$9,368,898$6.97
Massachusetts$7,586,232$1.10
Maryland$6,921,747$1.14
South Dakota$6,662,921$7.53
Nebraska$6,477,687$3.35
Kansas$4,481,543$1.54
New Hampshire$4,389,536$3.23
Wyoming$4,092,509$7.07
Montana$3,205,688$3.00
Delaware$2,704,611$2.78
Alaska$2,376,079$3.25
Rhode Island$1,768,124$1.67
Vermont$1,622,536$2.60

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)StateValue of Equipment Acquired
Houston Police DepartmentTX$11,682,951
Las Vegas Metro Police DepartmentNV$8,995,931
Washington County Sheriff's OfficeTN$7,501,075
Columbus Division of PoliceOH$6,885,949
Ventura County Sheriff's OfficeCA$6,605,678
Columbus County Sheriff's OfficeNC$6,596,927
Sacramento County Sheriff's DepartmentCA$6,142,009
Santa Barbara County Sheriff's OfficeCA$5,902,198
Hocking County Sheriff's OfficeOH$5,865,008
Jackson Police DepartmentMS$5,823,634
Orange County Sheriff's DepartmentCA$5,802,758
Lawrenceburg Police DepartmentTN$5,543,166
Sherburne County Sheriff's OfficeMN$5,194,238
Kirklin Police DepartmentIN$5,014,748
Los Angeles Country Sheriff's DepartmentCA$4,840,970
King Country Sheriff's DepartmentWA$4,618,686
Pinal Country Sheriff's DepartmentAZ$4,305,849
Martin County Sheriff's OfficeFL$4,179,645
Kane County Sheriff's OfficeIL$4,006,465
Cottage Grove Police DepartmentMN$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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Politics

U.S. Presidential Voting History from 1976-2020 (Animated Map)

With this map of U.S. presidential voting history by state, discover patterns that have emerged over the last twelve elections.

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Voting History

U.S. Presidential Voting History by State

After a tumultuous election, all states have now certified their 2020 presidential voting results. Which states changed party allegiance, and how do the results compare to previous years?

In this graphic, we use data from the U.S. National Archives and the MIT Election Data and Science Lab to show U.S. presidential voting history by state since 1976.

Note: this post has been updated on January 19, 2021 to reflect the latest data.

Each State’s Winning Party

To calculate the winning ratio, we divided the votes for the state’s winning party by the total number of state votes. Here’s another look at the same data, visualized in a different way.

Voting History

This graphic was inspired by this Reddit post.

As the voting history shows, some states—such as Alaska, Oklahoma, and Wyoming—have consistently supported the Republican Party. On the other hand, Hawaii, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia have been Democrat strongholds for many decades.

The District of Columbia (D.C.) is a federal district, and is not part of any U.S. State. Its population is urban and has a large percentage of Black and college-educated citizens, all of which are groups that tend to identify as Democrat.

Swing states typically see a close contest between Democrats and Republicans. For example, Florida’s average margin of victory for presidential candidates has been just 2.7% since 1996. It’s often seen as a key battleground, and for good reason: the state has 29 electoral college votes, meaning it has a high weighting in the final outcome.

Memorable Election Years

Within U.S. presidential voting history, some election results stand out more than others. In 1984, President Reagan was re-elected in a landslide victory, winning 49 out of 50 states. The remarkable win has been credited to the economic recovery during Reagan’s first term, Reagan’s charisma, and voters’ opposition to the Democrat’s planned tax increases.

In 1992, self-made Texas billionaire Ross Perot ran as a third-party candidate. He captured almost 19% of the popular vote, the highest percentage of any third-party presidential candidate in over 80 years. While he gained support from those looking for a change from traditional party politics, Bill Clinton ultimately went on to win the election.

Most recently, the 2020 election had a record voter turnout, with 66.3% of the eligible population casting a ballot. There was also a record number of mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to widespread allegations of voter fraud, with President Trump and his allies filing 62 lawsuits seeking to overturn election results. In the end, 61 of the lawsuits were defeated and congress confirmed Joe Biden’s victory.

Voting History of Swing States

Both Trump and Biden focused on battleground states in 2020, but where were they successful? Here are nine of the swing states, and their voting history over the last two elections.

 2020 Winning Ratio2020 Margin of Victory2016 Winning Ratio2016 Margin of Victory
Arizona49.4% Democrat0.31%48.7% Republican3.60%
Florida51.2% Republican3.36%49.0% Republican1.20%
Georgia49.5% Democrat0.24%50.8% Republican5.20%
Iowa53.2% Republican8.20%51.2% Republican9.40%
Michigan50.6% Democrat2.78%47.5% Republican0.20%
North Carolina50.1% Republican1.35%49.8% Republican3.60%
Ohio53.3% Republican8.03%51.7% Republican8.10%
Pennsylvania50.0% Democrat1.16%48.9% Republican0.70%
Wisconsin49.5% Democrat0.63%47.2% Republican0.70%

The Republican party won four of the swing states in 2020, including Florida. However, 2020 was the first year since 1964 that the candidate who won Florida did not go on to win the election.

Five of the states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—flipped allegiance to the Democrats. In Georgia, the margin of victory was as small as 0.24% or about 12,000 votes. Ultimately, winning over these states helped lead to a Biden victory.

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Politics

How News Media is Describing the Incident at the U.S. Capitol

The incident at the U.S. Capitol has received wide news media coverage, but the type of language used to describe it has varied greatly depending on the publication.

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words used to describe the us capitol incident

How Media Outlets Describe the Incident at the U.S. Capitol

Was it a riot? An insurrection? Or was it simply a protest?

The January 6, 2021 incident at the U.S. Capitol was widely covered in news media—however, the type of language used to describe it varied greatly from publication to publication.

Popular news media has a major impact on how society at large perceives major events. To learn more about the language used in recent coverage, we analyzed over 180 articles from Alexa’s top-ranked news websites in the United States. Here’s what we found.

Most Common Descriptions: The Event

From riot to rampage, descriptions used by news media of the incident at the U.S. Capitol were all over the map:

↓ Event descriptorYahooCNNNYTFoxWaPoBreitbartEpoch TimesBBCBI
Riot69910993107
Storm97665710108
Breach4633221331
Siege6177154
Attack31613433
Insurrection331117
Assault511111
Rampage113111
Invasion131
Unrest1211

The most commonly used description was riot, followed by storm. On the other end of the spectrum were the less-frequent terms such as insurrection, assault, rampage, and invasion.

Interestingly, Yahoo News, Business Insider, and BBC used siege, attack, and insurrection more often as compared to Breitbart, Epoch Times, and Fox News. The Epoch Times also described the event as a breach more times than any other outlet.

Most Common Descriptions: The Participants

The participants in the incident were identified in various ways, reflecting the variation seen in describing the incident.

↓ ParticipantsYahooCNNNYTFoxWaPoBreitbartEpoch TimesBBCBI
Mob1281268811
Rioters699763454
Protesters12871351
Trump supporters3322351
Pro-Trump mob21117
Pro-Trump rioters325
Insurrectionists2113
Demonstrators1311
Participants2
Extremists3

In alignment with the usage of riot, the most common descriptions for participants were mob and rioters, followed by protesters. The frequency of use of Trump supporters comes as no surprise, especially since many of the participants are known to have attended the ‘Stop the Steal’ Trump rally preceding the event.

While most outlets referred to the crowd as protesters in the events leading up to the storming of the Capitol building, not all used that term to describe the people who entered the Capitol building. Fox News, Breitbart, and Epoch Times used protesters more often than any other news media outlet. In fact, these three outlets account for 28 of the 37 news articles in which the term protesters appeared.

On the other hand, the term pro-Trump rioters—which was used by Yahoo News, Business Insider, and CNN—did not appear in any articles by Fox News, Breitbart, or Epoch Times.

Tonal Differences

While some media outlets stuck to relatively neutral descriptors, others used unconventional terms to describe both the incident as well as those involved.

The New York Times and the Washington Post, for example, generally adhered to neutral language. They frequently described the event as a siege and a riot, and those involved as the mob and rioters.

U.S. Capitol Incident

The Epoch Times and Breitbart employed terms like protesters and alleged Trump supporters in discussing the individuals involved.

U.S. Capitol Incident

On the other hand, Yahoo News called it an insurrection carried out by militant supporters of President Trump, and Business Insider talked of a pro-Trump assault on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. Capitol Incident

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) potentially reflects how the event was perceived outside of the United States. Terms like riot and stormed appeared most commonly in BBC coverage of the incident. The participants were evenly identified as rioters, Trump supporters, protesters, and more often as the mob.

capitol incident bbc

The Impact of Media Coverage

The influence of news media on how the public perceives events is undeniable. In fact, 88% of surveyed Americans consider the news an essential tool to keep informed about public affairs.

From a riot caused by rioters to an insurrection by President Trump’s militant supporters, the way different media outlets analyze the U.S. Capitol incident impacts what their respective audiences take away from it.

Note: Publications that focus primarily on sports, entertainment, and business were omitted from this analysis. We analyzed 20 articles from each publication that related directly to the Capitol situation and resulting coverage.

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