Only thirteen states refuse to release data on Pentagon equipment transfers to police

Six refused to hand over 1033 data, six claimed not to have it, and one’s Louisiana

Written by Shawn Musgrave
Edited by JPat Brown

In August, when the dramatic events in Ferguson brought the Defense Department’s 1033 program to national scrutiny, MuckRock submitted public records requests to all 50 state coordinators. Since the Pentagon refuses to disclose which police departments nationwide had received weapons, armored vehicles and even bomb robots via the 1033 program, we asked each state directly.

By early September, more than half the states had released their spreadsheets. To date, 37 states have done so, opening up the 1033 program to public accountability that was impossible before.

Through data released so far by the state coordinators, we’ve found mine-resistant vehicles, assault rifles and grenade launchers allocated to school district police in California, as well as armored vehicles distributed to New York law enforcement agencies as large as the NYPD and as small as the Quogue Village police.

But not all states were willing to release data regarding the 1033 program. Here’s a quick rundown of the thirteen state coordinators that have yet to disclose which agencies have received excess military equipment.

The rejections

The reasons that state coordinators cited for withholding agency-by-agency data varied. The Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, for instance, cited an exemption under the state public records statute for “Investigating records compiled for law enforcement purposes,” but failed to explain how the 1033 program spreadsheets fall into this category.

The Massachusetts State Police similarly claimed that releasing the 1033 equipment transfer spreadsheet would “undermine public safety as it relates to security measures and emergency preparedness.” The North Carolina Department of Public Safety suggested that releasing the spreadsheet would “be like providing criminals a blueprint on how to harm law enforcement or get around their security tactics when trying to prevent crime and/or a serious event.”

Six states in total rejected the request outright:

  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • West Virginia

MuckRock has appealed these rejections for Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and South Dakota. There is no administrative appeal available to requesters under the public records statutes in North Carolina and West Virginia.

The missing spreadsheets

The state coordinator is responsible for reviewing inventory for all participating police departments. Oddly, a handful of states claim not to have access to any spreadsheets that itemize all 1033 program equipment transfers. Again, each of the 37 states that released this same data provided it in virtually identical format.

Six states claim not to have any such spreadsheet:

  • Alabama
  • Delaware
  • Maine
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming

… and then there’s Louisiana

Louisiana is in a category all its own. The 37 states that have provided data all gave a spreadsheet of some kind — most provided Excel files, and a few sent printouts of the same — and none charged more than $50 for the processing and duplication. But the Louisiana Federal Property Assistance Agency of Louisiana insisted that fulfilling the same request would involve printing approximately 20,000 pages of paper files at a cost of $5,000.

Shipping would cost extra, the agency indicated.

Notably, the LFPAA has not provided a copy of the memorandum of agreement each state coordinator must sign with the Defense Logistics Agency. Even states that rejected the request for agency-by-agency spreadsheets provided this basic agreement.

MuckRock is continuing to review options for obtaining a comprehensive snapshot of equipment distributed via the 1033 program to police in every state. Check out your state’s data via the map above, and if you’re a resident of the 13 holdouts, let them know you’re not happy. As always, you can reach us at info@muckrock.com.


Image via Wikimedia Commons