Breaking down the militarization of local law enforcement in Montana


HELENA — You may or may not have heard of the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which provides surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, but you have probably noticed your local law enforcement agencies looking more and more like our military forces with each passing day.

The Defense Department has long kept secret the details of which local agencies across the country have received items from its 1033 program and which items an agency has received. But in light of the recent events in Ferguson, MO., the pressure for greater transparency led the Pentagon to quietly release all the data that details every piece of equipment distributed through the program.

The vast collection of data amounts to something of a Christmas wish list for local law enforcement consisting of assault weapons, night-vision equipment, mine-resistant armored vehicles, aircraft and other surplus military equipment, all offered for free with agencies only required to pay shipping costs.

Since 1990, the Pentagon program has distributed surplus military equipment to police departments nationwide with little attention or civilian oversight. Over the more than 20-year span the program has been in operation it has given away $5 billion in equipment across nearly 200,000 transactions—mostly office equipment such as copiers, fax machines and computers—but it has also involved giving $1.6 billion worth of tactical military equipment to over 7,500 law enforcement agencies across the country.

Montana law enforcement agencies

A total of 71 law enforcement agencies in Montana received over  $5 million in equipment from the 1033 program since its inception. Six agencies in Montana have received over $300,000 worth of equipment: Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, $797,888.00; Great Falls Police Department, $726,062.89; Anaconda-Deer Lodge County LEA, $369,880.00; Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office, $337,890.00; Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, $315,049.21; and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, $300,277.65.

Between the top-two agencies, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office and Great Falls Police Department each received a mine-resistant armored vehicle valued at over $600,000, a total of 123 assault rifles and two-dozen .45-caliber pistols. The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office also received an armored truck valued at over $65,000.

Agencies in Montana also acquired a total of six helicopters. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks received three, Montana Highway Patrol received two and the Montana Department of Livestock received one aircraft.

If you would like to find out if your local law enforcement agencies participate in the program and see what it received, use the graphic below provided by The Marshall Project. To view an agencies itemized list, click on the agency name and it will drop down showing what items the agency has received.

The Marshall Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization covering America’s criminal justice system, and provided this graphic. To view the complete project on the 1033 program, view the Department of Defense Gift Guide visualization and the full national story.

Follow Jeremy Chapman and the Montana Center for Investigative Reporting on Twitter.

  • Guest

    Why the hell does Valley County need a “guided missile system”? This is just ridiculous.