Militarization of Police

Grenade Launchers, Helicopters, and…Popcorn Machines? Highlights of the Ridiculous Items Given to Police by the DoD



The Department of Defense's 1033 program has allowed police departments across the country, including in Ferguson, Missouri, to acquire excess military equipment DoD is no longer using—including mine-resistant vehicles, planes, helicopters, machine guns, body armor, etc. This property is delivered to law enforcement agencies free of charge, too. All they have to pay is the costs associated with shipping and/or transportation.

According to the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), the facilitators of the 1033 program, each item given to local law enforcement agencies "must have a justification and be approved by both the State Coordinator and be approved by LESO Staff." Preference is given to those agencies that request property to be used for "counter-drug and counter-terrorism" operations.  And, according to Pentagon press secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, "there's a lot of due diligence" involved in decisions made about the type of equipment police forces receive through the 1033 program.

"I want to make sure that it's clear that this isn't some program run amok here, or that there isn't proper accountability," Kirby told the press this week. "There is. And it's well thought-out."

However, according to a document that details every transfer made through the 1033 program to local law enforcement between 2006 and May 2014, some county police forces have received tens of thousands of dollars worth of items that one would expect to normally see at, say, a kids' birthday party—not in a police station. Here are some highlights of the ridiculous items some local law enforcement agencies have received through the 1033 program:

Musical Instruments

Since 2006, several counties have received tens of thousands of dollars worth of musical instruments. Some counties received enough instruments to start their own marching band, if they wanted to.

For example, Trumbull County, Ohio, was given a $2,300 euphonium, two $1,700 saxophones, a flugelhorn, a tenor trombone, a $2,000 alto horn, a clarinet, and a piccolo. Ashtabula County, Ohio, right next door to Trumbull, received two clarinets, four trumpets, three tenor trombones, four snare drums, three French horns, a bass violin, a bass drum, and 13 unnamed "musical instruments" or "musical instrument parts and accessories."

Jethro Elfman

Bouncy Castle

The citizens of Genesee County, Michigan, can feel safer knowing their police are equipped with a $500 bouncy castle at its disposal (for crime fighting purposes only, of course!). In February, they were also given a French horn.

Ice Cream Makers & Icey Machines

Since 2006, three counties have received soft-serve ice cream makers, valued anywhere from $5,200 to $16,500.  One county, Worth County, GA, was given an icey machine (for making slushies, etc.). They were also given a $3,200 vending machine, presumably to make up for the lack of soft serve availability.

Meat Slicers

Between 2006 and May 2014, five counties received meat slicers courtesy of the Department of Defense. Clark County, Indiana, was even lucky enough to receive two. The value of the slicers ranged from $880 to $4,780.


Xbox Games

Yes, Xbox games. I'm guessing Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are being used for police training purposes in Allen County, Ohio.

Popcorn & Hotdog Machines, Pizza Ovens

Since 2006, the Department of Defense has given Aiken County, South Carolina, a $1,500 popcorn machine, Clark County, Indiana, two $11,000 pizza ovens, and Maricopa County, Arizona, a hot dog machine and a $3,500 popcorn machine.

This certainly doesn't sound like a program that's "run amok," now does it?

NEXT: Petty Law Enforcement and Its Effect on Ferguson

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  1. The recreational items are fine. I’d rather Uncle Sam be selling those items on ebay, but at least he isn’t throwing them away. I’m much more worried about the weapons of war, though.

    1. A grenade launcher isn’t a weapon of war?

      1. I think he is saying, “go ahead with the musical instruments, but hold off on the machine guns and grenade launchers”.

        1. I wonder if anyone has ever tried to disperse a riot with a line of sousaphone wearing cops playing “76 trombones”. Confusing the rioters with sufficiently surreal responses could work.

          1. Say, you might have something there –

            “That crowd just won’t disperse….Band! On 3, play the Liberty Bell March!”

        2. Bingo. I can’t find the link anymore, but someone posted one earlier where you could look up any equipment transfered to your local gov’t. Some were getting rifles that fire 7.62 NATO rounds. Why would a local LEO need that? I can almost believe grenade launchers are needed for lobbing smoke bombs during a riot, but what are they going to do with a medium machine gun?

          1. Link

            My county, Hennepin (in MN) got a ton of those rifles, whiuch is scary because the cops around here are pretty damn stupid and aggressive.

          2. 7.62 NATO is functionally identical to .308 – so they’re probably using it for their snipers.

            So keep a look out for M24 and M40’s being transferred.

      2. Of course it is. I guess it could also be a recreational item…

  2. Why does reason hate our heroes in blue? They put our lives on the line every day, and this is the thanks they get?

    1. Exactly. They risk their lives to protect and serve us by shooting vicious Labrador retrievers, and yet you would deny them a bouncy castle to fight the war on drugs? How can you sleep at night?

  3. Popcorn machine? You mean donut fryer.

    1. I can just imagine the cops firing up the popcorn maker, confuse the sound of popcorn for gunfire, and going to hide in their MRAP.

  4. Cook county got 50 basketballs. Yippee!!

    I’d rather they be selling those pages and pages of 5.56mm rifles on ebay.

    1. Some of the prices for firearms are crazy. Why can’t I have a $55 .45 automatic? Or a $140 5.56 rifle?

      1. Pretty sure that’s just the shipping charges … the stuff is actually free.

      2. You can – buy some property out in the county, incorporate, start your own police force and Voila! Government equipment transfer.

  5. Look, when a posse of our heroes in blue are working over some homeless schizophrenic, backup needs to be able to satisfy a case of the munchies before they get tagged in.

  6. Speaking of pigs. A couple more dog murderers.…..n-one-week

  7. Miami-Dade County, Florida got 4 grenade launchers, 4 MRAPs, several dozen rifles… and cold weather clothing, among other things. WTF was Miami-Dade County getting cold weather clothing for? That one night a year where it gets into the 40s on Miami Beach?

  8. Since 2006, several counties have received tens of thousands of dollars worth of musical instruments. Some counties received enough instruments to start their own marching band, if they wanted to.

    Why do you hate John Philip Sousa, Lauren?

    1. No hate. He has a great mustache.

  9. If one is paying delivery and transportation charges, then one cannot reasonably claim that that the item(s) were delivered “free of charge”.

    1. It’s free for the government.

      Everything is free for the government.

  10. My county, Cobb Georgia, got a page of 5.56’ers, a butt-load of truly expensive night vision devices, but only got one COMPLETE COMBAT/ASSAULT/TACTICAL WHEELED VEHICLE. We are impoverished.


    1. That seems pretty reasonable to me. Terrorist love attacking landmarks. Only the Statue of Liberty and the Golden Gate Bridge are more famous than the Big Chicken!

  11. Why does the federal government need to own a “bouncy castle” and a popcorn machine in the first place?

    1. Uh…low-gravity combat training?

  12. “This certainly doesn’t sound like a program that’s “run amok,” now does it?”

    Depends on whether one’s definition of ‘run amok’ amok has run, hrrrm.

  13. Some enterprising politician should put out a bill that ends the 1033 program and redirects those weapon sales to the Kurds.

    1. now THAT is the kinda thing a gifted politician would do – someone who changes the game and moves things forward on several fronts at once… precious few of those around… good idea ant

    2. SELL them to the Kurds maybe
      (that $hit ain’t cheap!)

  14. Someone (with way more time than me) really needs to go through that list and tear it apart (or maybe Balko’s already done it). I happened to look through the info on rifles (7.62 and 5.56) to the state of Georgia. Of the nearly 4,000 M16 and M14s that have gone to GA, 252 went to Walton County. Walton County has a population of about 86,000 and contains a couple of little towns. If you combine Walton County Sheriff Dept with Monroe, Loganville, and Social Circle PD, I can’t believe that you would even come up with 100 cops.

    By comparison, 54 rifles went to DeKalb County. DeKalb has a population of about 715,000 and DCPD has over 1200 cops.

    For the record, Walton County also got 291 bayonets, 400+ tactical vests, hundreds of rucksacks/sleeping bags/entrenching tools/tents, and one M113 APC. I pity the poor souls from Oconee County if they ever try to invade.

  15. Has the government never heard of Ebay?

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