TRENTON – Senator Nia H. Gill yesterday filed a public records request seeking information from the state on the type of military equipment acquired by law enforcement agencies throughout New Jersey under the federal Department of Defense’s 1033 program.
“We know that New Jersey agencies have acquired first aid kits and office supplies, but also military assault weapons, armored vehicles and a grenade launcher through this program. Clearly some of this equipment appears more suitable for a war zone than community policing. Transparency is crucial to ensuring the equipment obtained is appropriate for the requesting agency and that public safety is protected,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “States across the country, including neighboring New York, have released this information. The residents of New Jersey also deserve transparency with regard to the kind of equipment being requested and received by police departments in their communities.”
Senator Gill filed a public records request with the Office of Attorney General and the New Jersey State Police seeking agency-specific information on equipment acquired by local law enforcement since the program’s inception. The senator initially sought the information from the Attorney General’s office through an informal request made last month; however, the department provided documents that included incomplete information. Senator Gill noted that at least 33 other states have publicly released an itemized list of military equipment by agency.
The federal DOD 1033 program provides for the transfer of surplus military equipment from the federal government to local law enforcement agencies in the state at little to no cost. It has come under increased scrutiny in recent months, following the use of military equipment by local law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting death of Michael Brown. New Jersey law enforcement agencies received more than $30 million worth of equipment in the last year. The type of non-tactical equipment obtained by New Jersey agencies, such as first aid and office supplies, has been made public. The same information concerning tactical equipment, such as military firearms and armored vehicles, has not. There are differing views in New Jersey’s law enforcement community as to whether certain types of military equipment is necessary and appropriate for use by local police departments. The Senator believes the public should have complete information about the public program.