The War at Home: Militarized Local Police Tap Post-9/11 Grants to Stockpile Combat Gear, Use Drones
A new report by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that since 9/11, local law enforcement agencies have used $34 billion in federal grants to acquire military equipment such as bomb-detection robots, digital communications equipment and Kevlar helmets. "A lot of these technologies and devices have been around for a long time. But as soon as they have a law enforcement capability, that is a game changer," says George Schulz, with the Center for Investigative Reporting. "The courts and the public have to ask, 'How is the technology being used by a community of people — the police — who are endowed with more power than the rest of us?'" Local police departments have also added drones to their tool kit. In June, a drone helped local police in North Dakota with surveillance leading to what may be the first domestic arrests with help from a drone. The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a new report that calls on the government to establish privacy protections for surveillance by unmanned aerial drones, especially of people engaged in protests. "We believe that people should not be targeted for surveillance via drones just because they are they are engaged in First Amendment protected activity," says Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.