Westland cops are ready for tactical deployments in deep snow or extreme cold, thanks to surplus military snowshoes, white camouflage parkas, winter camo pants and mitten inserts.
In addition to 100 pairs of snowshoes, that suburban police force also got 29 "advanced combat helmets" as part of the Pentagon's law enforcement giveaways.
Details of what went to Westland and 49 other Metro Detroit police forces and the area's three sheriff's departments are disclosed for the first time in a new database analyzed by Deadline Detroit.
Overall, 53 departments from Allen Park to Wyandotte received $11.5 million worth of new and used military tactical equipment since 1990 for just the cost of shipping, according to our tabulation of city-by-city figures posted Wednesday by the nonprofit Marshall Project. That Manhattan-based news organization covers criminal justice topics.
Past news reports gave only statewide totals from the Pentagon program. On Nov. 21, the Defense Logistics Agency issued its first itemized database of 203,000 transfers to about 7,500 agencies, according to the Marshall article. The number and value of tactical (not administrative) items are shown for each recipient.
Some handouts are much bigger, costlier and more lethal than snowshoes.
Five local forces got the rugged combat vehicle pictured above -- a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle called a MRAP in military jargon. They're valued at $658,000 to $733,000 each by the Pentagon. Recipients are Dearborn Heights, Hamtramck, West Bloomfield, Wixom and a joint Eastern Wayne Response Team.
Detroit and four other cities got armored trucks. Livonia obtained a launcher for tear gas and smoke grenades. Garden City took delivery of six 12-gage "riot-type shotguns," as the Pentagon describes them.
Nearly 40 departments in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb added M4 and M14 rifles to their arsenals, with 719 of the combat assault weapons distributed in Metro Detroit. Those automatic weapons fire 5.56mm or 7.62mm cartridges
Detroit didn't get any assault rifles. Oakland's sheriff received 302 rifles and 416 bayonets. The "idea on bayonets is to put in patrol emerg med kit to cut seat belts etc," Sheriff Michael Bouchard says on Twitter.
The Detroit Public Schools Police got six bomb disposal robots valued at $10,000 apiece..
► Look up your city: A searchable statewide list of military gear recipients is at the end of this article.
The lowest-value recipient is South Lyon, with two rifles worth $240. The largest windfall went to the Oakland County Sheriff Department, where the haul totals $4,677,884.
Detroit received $512,643 worth of police equipment, including two helicopters valued at $283,107 for both, an armored truck, an aircraft engine, night vision gear and 10 combat vests for a tactical medical team.
Some Say 'No Thanks'
Some sizable local police forces -- Mount Clemens, Sterling Heights, Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham -- didn't get a single tactical item.
To be clear, many handouts from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force are more like office and repair shop supplies than armaments. The list includes laptops, tools, USB thumb drives, protective glasses, bedding, digital watches, medical equipment and a tow truck.
And the giveaway program benefits communities by distributing advanced materials for public safety, search and rescue, and emergency first aid without extra cost to local taxpayers.
"Eighty percent of the program has nothing to do with weapons," Oakland Sheriff Bouchard tells Deadline. "And the armor has no offensive capability -- big safe boxes."
At the same time, some materials are the type that provoked debate when used against protesters in Ferguson, Mo., in August.
That month, Christina Hall of the Detroit Free Press reported that "Michigan police departments have armed themselves . . . with 128,000 items worth an estimated $43 million under a federal program that allows police to obtain surplus gear free from the U.S. military." But local breakdowns weren't available then, she noted: "Federal officials won’t say which agencies got equipment."
The Marshall Project report describes what changed after Ferguson:
Flooded with calls for greater transparency, in late November, the Pentagon quietly released data that details all tactical equipment distributed through the program, and for the first time identified the agencies that received items.
The data is a national gift list of high-caliber weapons, armored vehicles, aircraft and similar military equipment, all delivered for the price of shipping and often with little civilian oversight.The program has doled out $5 billion in equipment since 1990. . . .
Even after Ferguson, the program continues to chug along, transferring $28 million in tactical equipment in the past three months.
Sheriff Bouchard spoke about the program's value early this fall in an interview with editor Lisa Brody of Downtown Birmingham/Bloomfield magazine:
"We have to respond to what we face In the community, and more and more often we're facing rifles -- high-powered rifles. . . .Tactically they have a much longer field of fire. That's why we have to be able to engage them, and why more and more police departments have sought weapons from the military or have bought them. . . .
"If we didn't get them from the military, we'd be buying them anyway because we believe our folks need to have that as an option. . . ."I dispute the term militarization. If we're getting what civilians have, that's not military. Everybody says tanks. No police department has tanks."
Thirteen departments in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb have obtained federal military gear valued above $100,000 this decade and last:
- Detroit Police: $512,643
- Hamtramck: $793,637
- Highland Park: $496,935
- Inkster: $346,799
- Macomb Sheriff: $355,470
- Oakland Sheriff: $4.6 million
- Warren: $100,735
- Wayne Sheriff: $672,638
- West Bloomfield: $908,290
- Westland: $105,368
- Wixom: $747,322
The scrollable database below shows all Michigan law enforcement agencies that got tactical gear from the Defense Logistics Agency. The list includes campus police and four federal agencies based in Detroit, which aren't counted in our $11.5 million total for local and county police.
Click on any line for an itemized list.