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ACLU Launches Nationwide Investigation into Police Use of Military Technology & Tactics

05 March 2013 Published in Newsroom

Militarization of Local Law Enforcement Erodes Civil Liberties, Encourages Overly Aggressive Policing - The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and 22 other ACLU affiliates across the country are simultaneously filing over 255 public records requests to determine the extent to which local police departments are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used overseas.

 “Equipping state and local law enforcement with military weapons and vehicles, military tactical training, and actual military assistance to conduct traditional law enforcement erodes civil liberties and encourages increasingly aggressive policing, particularly in poor neighborhoods and communities of color,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel for ACLU’s Center for Justice. “We’ve seen examples of this in several localities, but we don’t know the dimensions of the problem.”

ACLU of Utah filed two public records requests. The first request, filed with 18 local law enforcement agencies, seeks information on the use of:

  • SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) Teams, including:
  • Number and purpose of deployments
  • Types of weapons used during deployments
  • Injuries sustained by civilians during deployments
  • Training materials
  • Funding sources
  • Cutting edge weapons and technologies, including:
  • GPS tracking devices
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (“drones”)
  • Augmented detainee restraint (“shock-cuffs”)
  • Military weaponry, equipment, and vehicles obtained from or funded by federal agencies such as the Departments of Defense and/or Homeland Security

The second request, filed with the Utah National Guard, seeks information regarding:

  • Cooperative agreements between local police departments and the National Guard counter-drug program
  • Incidents of National Guard contact with civilians

“The American people deserve to know how much our local police are using military weapons and tactics for everyday policing,” said Allie Bohm, ACLU advocacy and policy strategist. “The militarization of local police is a threat to Americans’ right to live without fear of military-style intervention in their daily lives, and we need to make sure these resources and tactics are deployed only with rigorous oversight and strong legal protections.”

Once the information has been collected and analyzed, if needed, the ACLU will use the results to recommend changes in law and policy governing the use of military tactics and technology in local law enforcement.

Participating ACLU affiliates include: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, · Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. More information about this national effort may be found at http://www.aclu.org/militarization

Click here for more information, including copies of the ACLU of Utah’s 19 GRAMA requests sent to:: Brigham City Police Department, Cache County Sheriffs Department, Cedar City Police Department, Iron County Police Department, Moab Police Department, Murray Police Department, Ogden Police Department, Orem Police Department, Park City Police Department, Provo Police Department, Roy Police Department, Sandy Police Department, Salt Lake City Police Department, St. George Police Department, Summit County Sheriffs Department, Salt Lake County Unified Police Department, Utah County Sheriffs Department, Weber County Sheriffs Department, and Utah National Guard.