Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, have raised questions about the militarization of American police departments. When angry protesters took to the streets to demand justice, Ferguson police responded with force. Cops in riot gear fired tear gas and stun grenades at marchers. At least one officer pointed his loaded assault rifle at demonstrators and threatened to kill them if they didn't obey orders.
Ferguson police, it was reported, had obtained their weaponry under something called the Law Enforcement Support Office Program. LESO, as it is known, supplies local police departments with leftover U.S. military equipment.
What hasn't been reported, however, is that a dozen police departments in South Florida have also received military equipment ranging from helicopters to grenade launchers.
Here's what the police forces in Broward and Palm Beach are packing, thanks to LESO.
Broward Sheriff's Office: Four utility trucks and two M-16 semiautomatic rifles.
Fort Lauderdale Police: two robots for "explosive ordinance dispersal" and three utility trucks
Hallandale: one mine-resistant vehicle (known as an MRAP) Lauderhill: an armored truck.
The Boynton Beach Police Department received 12 M-16s; the Delray PD, ten of them; Juno Beach police, three.
The Town of Palm Beach Police Department received a utility truck and a mix of semiautomatic rifles -- four M-14s and 10 M-16s. Jupiter Island Public Safety also got a mix of guns -- four M-14s and five M-16s.
The Jupiter Police Department received 22 M-16s, plus a mine resistant vehicle.
Riviera Beach got an MRAP.
And the Palm Beach School Police got two .45 caliber pistols.
The motherlode went to Florida Fish & Wildlife -- which received three helicopters, night vision equipment, and 283 semiautomatic rifles -- and the Florida Highway Patrol, which received three armored cars, an armored truck, an MRAP, a pistol and handgun, and 1533 semiautomatic rifles.
Ben Wolf, the Director of Communications for the Florida Department of Management Services, says that the equipment is technically on loan to the local departments and remains the property of the federal government. His office keeps track of inventory and and there are "currently no missing items." Phew?
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