- Harrison Berry
- The Boise Police Department received an MRAP through the 1033 program.
The hardware, which ranges from riot gear and pistols to mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs), became controversial after it was on full display during protests of the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Police in the area confronted protesters with armored vehicles, sniper teams, tear gas and assault rifles.
In the aftermath of those demonstrations—and the spotlight they put on police militarization—then-President Barack Obama discontinued the policy of handing military weapons down to cops, known as the 1033 program, by executive order in 2015. In all, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies received more than $5.4 billion in equipment over 25 years before the program was shut down.
During a speech Monday at the Fraternal Order of Police convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled the president would sign an order later that day to open the floodgates of surplus materiel to local police, sending a powerful message about the current view of this administration toward police and crime in America.
"We will not put superficial concerns above public safety," Sessions said. "The executive order the president will sign today will ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence and lawlessness to become the new normal."
The Boise Police Department is one of the law enforcement agencies that received hardware through the 1033 program, which began in 1990. Over the years, BPD was allocated 150 helmets, 40 storage chests, 30 gas mask filters, 15 chemical suits, 12 AR-15 assault rifles that had been converted to semi-automatic and are for training use only, five flak jackets, five pairs of binoculars, two pairs of night-vision goggles, a protective bomb suit and a 1950s-era telescope. It also obtained a REVA transport van for the SWAT team.
Perhaps the highest-profile acquisition of the BPD, however, is an MRAP—a 10-foot-tall, 18-ton transport vehicle with 2-inch-thick armor. Its driver's side door alone weighs 200 pounds. BPD has been adamant that the vehicle is to be used exclusively for defensive purposes, and it is rarely deployed.
"You're not going to see it at crowds, managing crowds," said former BPD Chief Mike Masterson in 2014. "You're not going to see it at Treefort. It's not even appropriate for [MRAPs] to be at these kinds of events."
As part of his order shuttering the 1033 program, Obama accepted the recommendations of a working group to recall some of the equipment—tanks, grenade launchers, camouflage gear and more—on the grounds that they are dangerous or, in the case of tracked vehicles, "designed specifically for use in military operations, and their appearance may undermine community trust when used in support of civilian law enforcement activities."
BPD was allowed to keep its MRAP, which is a wheeled vehicle, but within months of Obama's 2015 directive BPD was in talks with the Ada County Sheriff's Office, which acquired the MRAP at no cost in January 2016. According to ACSO, the vehicle was to be used by the Ada County Metro SWAT team, but has not yet been deployed, though it has been used in training exercises.
"We did not have to return anything during that time when they were looking over all that military equipment," said BPD spokesperson Haley Williams, who added BPD has not made plans to request additional surplus military gear following Trump's announcement.