The images of armored vehicles and heavily armored officers clashing with protestors in Ferguson has brought to light the militarization of police.
8News Investigator Kerri O'Brien has discovered local law enforcement has been quietly stockpiling sophisticated military equipment for years now.
How did police get the stuff?
It turns out since the late 1990's, the Department of Defense has been transferring their unwanted military gear to police departments across the country under what's called the 1033 program.
Armored trucks, camouflage and a grenade launcher, sounds like equipment for soldiers heading off to war but this is actually all gear in the hands of local police.
8News has combed through a list form the Pentagon detailing millions of dollars worth military equipment given to the police here in Virginia under the 1033 Program.
RELATED: See the Pentagon report on the 1033 Program
We found the Culpeper and Caroline County Sheriff's Office both got mine resistant vehicles. These MRAP's weight 25-thousand pounds and keep you safe from IED's.
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director for the ACLU Of Virginia says "that mine resistant tank that the Sheriff in Culpeper has I can't figure out what he thinks he is going to use it for."
The ACLU has been concerned about the militarization of police long before the scenes of heavily armored police clashing with protestors in Ferguson.
"We are concerned because the public has not had any role in the asking of what kind of police they want in their communities,” says Guthrie Gastanaga.
The MRAPS weren't the only interesting items we on the Pentagon's list. We found The New Kent County Sheriff's office got a grenade launcher. Richmond police, outfitted in camouflage pants and combat boots, the Goochland Sheriff stockpiled riot type shotguns and Henrico Police received thousands of dollars worth of night vision equipment.
But the list of equipment also has some very basic needs says Dana Schrad the Executive Director for Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. She says, "The vast majority of it is things like protective gear, lockers, rifles, the rifles they would have to purchase anyway."
Schrad also says the military's 1033 program has saved police departments and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And she says some of those armored vehicles like the MRAP can be very helpful
“Actually most of the time those vehicles are going to be more for what we call emergency response they're the kind of vehicles that can get through flood waters and through heavy snow and blizzards,” said Schrad.
Both Caroline and Culpeper Sheriff's refused to talk on camera with us about the MRAP's but on the Culpeper Sheriff's website the Sheriff says their MRAP will be sued for barricade situations and to protect officers under fire.
He writes, “Until now, we didn't have the means to move officers safely into a situation involving a rifle shooter."
Still the images in Ferguson have the President saying it's time to review the 1033 Program,
Both Schrad and the ACLU agree from what we have seen in Missouri, if police are going to have this military equipment, there needs to be training with it.
This past June the House a Representatives voted on a bill to partially de-fund the 1033 program. It failed to see how your Representative voted click here.
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