Over 500 weapons and hundreds more pieces of military-grade tactical equipment have been transferred to the state of West Virginia since 2006 through a Department of Defense program known as the 1033 program. The transfers came through the Defense Logistics Agency's Law Enforcement Support Office, or LESO.
An investigation released Tuesday by The New York Times outlines transfers from the program to states, who coordinate with local law enforcement to acquire and distribute the weapons and equipment.
The West Virginia State Police is the coordinating agency for the state for the 1033 program.
State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Michael Baylous said the State Police currently has humvees acquired through the program. Baylous and Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety spokesman Lawrence Messina noted other non-tactical equipment has been transferred to State Police through Program 1033, such as bulldozers, backhoes, furniture, and exercise equipment.
Messina said training on weapons and equipment acquired through the program is not handled by the Department of Military Affairs or State Police but is left up to local law enforcement who receive the items. However, Messina said State Police advises law enforcement to be trained on using and maintaining the equipment based on the item.
Accusations of the militarization of police forces, particularly through the 1033 program, has come under scrutiny with the events unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri as police there continue to face off with protestors there following the shooting of 18-year old Michael Brown.
A June 2014 report from the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the militarization of law enforcement agencies and the 1033 program, stating:
There are few limitations or requirements imposed on agencies that participate in the 1033 Program. In addition, equipment transferred under the 1033 Program is free to receiving agencies, though they are required to pay for transport and maintenance. The federal government requires agencies that receive 1033 equipment to use it within one year of receipt, so there can be no doubt that participation in this program creates an incentive for law enforcement agencies to use military equipment.
Click on a county in the map below to see what military gear has been passed over to law enforcement. Or view the map in it's entirety here:
(Note that this data does not reflect current inventory but shows total transfers of weapons and equipment to each county.)
A Quick Look at LESO Transfers to West Virginia Through 1033 Program Since 2006:
- Kanawha Co. received over 600 weapons and pieces of equipment through the program.
- Wood Co. received 34 assault rifles, 185 pieces of night vision equipment, and 40 pieces of body armor.
- Two grenade launchers have been issued through the program to law enforcement in West Virginia, with one going to Berkeley County and another to Cabell.
- McDowell Co. was the only county to receive a Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle.
- 20 of West Virginia's counties received no weapons or equipment through the 1033 program.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting is awaiting a response to a Freedom of Information Act request to find out more specifics on which law enforcement agencies have acquired weapons and equipment through the program.