Documents: Md. Police Departments Heavily Armed Through Pentagon Program

Local police departments in Maryland have received 2,700 pieces of military equipment from the federal government in recent months at no cost, according to documents obtained by News4 I-Team.

The equipment, obtained by local police departments through the Pentagon’s so-called “1033 program,” includes bayonets, rifles and mine-resistant vehicles. The program has come under scrutiny in the past couple of weeks by the controversial use of military-style equipment in Ferguson, Missouri.

According to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Laurel Police Department has two armored vehicles, and a bullet-proof “armored personnel” transporter.'

“We don’t use this for every day operations. It’s barricades, hostage situations, active shooters,” Laurel Police Chief Richard McLaughlin said.

One of the vehicles was used last October, as crews searched for a suspect in a police-involved shooting.

“We could take this into the woods and provide cover for the officers as they searched for the shooter… and it met the goal,” McLaughlin said.

Police in Hyattsville have received military Glocks and an armored vehicle, which doesn't sit well with city councilman Tim Hunt. 

“It doesn’t reflect our community, who the police are, how they interact with neighbors… I wish we didn’t have it,” Hunt said.

In response, members of Congress are drafting legislation to reduce the 1033 program and limit handouts. Military excess vehicles have long been sold through other government programs to local communities, but Maryland State Police say the 1033 hand-out program saves communities a fortune.

“They get this at zero cost. There may be some cost to convert it, paint it or something but it’s not sold to us,” Greg Shipley with Maryland State Police said.

Frederick County, Charles County and the University of Maryland College Park have all received dozens of firearms each through the 1033 program.

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