Bringing In The Big Guns

The flow of weapons between the police and the military started under the Nixon administration, at the beginning of the so-called “war on drugs.” When the military had surplus materiel—and it always did—it would funnel it to federal and local law enforcement agencies. In 1998, what had been an informal policy was formalized, and LESO was founded in Fort Belvoir, Virginia with the sole purpose of streamlining these transactions. According to National Journal, the agency had transferred $727 million of equipment during its first three years, including 253 aircraft, 7,856 M-16 rifles, and, the pièce-de-resistance, 181 grenade launchers (the article is, sadly, unavailable online). By 2011, the agency was bragging in its annual newsletter that it had doled out $500 million worth of equipment in that year alone. As of now, 17,000 law enforcement agencies from all fifty states are among LESO’s grantees.

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