Police militarization: How did it come to this?

Monday, August 25th, 2014


mrap and police car


That’s the number that’s been on the minds of journalists, politicians, and concerned citizens across the country since clashes between heavily-armed police forces and protesters in Ferguson, Mo. broke out several weeks ago.

As Watchdog.org journalist Eric Boehm reports, the “1033″ designation belongs to a Department of Defense program approved by Congress in 1990 that allowed the transfer of military surplus equipment to law enforcement agencies. Although now nearly a quarter of a century old, the effects of the 1033 Program have only just recently become painfully obvious to the media and elected officials – thanks in large part to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than $5 billion worth of military-grade equipment has been handed out to local law enforcement units over the program’s lifetime. As the New York Times documents in this interactive map, just since 2006, dozens of grenade launchers, hundreds of armored vehicles and countless assault rifles have been distributed to counties all over the country.

The outcry over this has been so great that President Obama has now ordered a review of the federal programs and funding that allow military-surplus equipment to be transferred to local law enforcement agencies.

“The review will include whether the programs are appropriate, if the agencies are getting enough training and guidance to use the equipment and whether the federal government is sufficiently auditing the use of the equipment,” Fox News reported Sunday.

“There is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement,” said President Obama, “and we don’t want those lines blurred.”

Blurring, however, seems to have already occurred, and Congress has been complicit in it. As Eric Boehm reported for Watchdog.org, Congress had a chance two months ago – before police militarization became part of the national conversation – to partially defund the 1033 Program and stem the tide of Pentagon freebies flowing to states. They shot down Rep. Alan Grayson’s proposal, however, in a decisive 62-355 vote.

SWAT team backUnsurprisingly, Boehm found, the U.S. House members who voted against Grayson’s amendment received, on average, 73 percent more from defense contractors than the 62 members who voted to restrict the 1033 Program.

Like Congress, many states have welcomed surplus military gear with open arms. In Missouri, for instance, the nexus of the militarization controversy, Governor Jay Nixon said he was “thunderstruck” by the “overmilitarization” he has seen. But as recently as January he signed off on statewide participation of the 1033 Program.

The outcry over Ferguson and elsewhere shouldn’t come as a surprise to Watchdog.org readers. Months before mainstream news outlets became widely aware of this trend, we were on the ground telling stories about local police departments gone wild – like this recruiting video in New Mexico, or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles rolling into small town Idaho.

We noted last June that when civil liberties are threatened by government pushing the limits of its powers, we’d be there to give citizens the facts about what is happening. And we have, reporting on the acquisition of military-grade equipment by police departments in states like Kansas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. We even found what appeared to be some encouraging news in New Mexico as officials in Albuquerque announced last month that they were getting rid of their MRAP, only to discover that police had purchased a new tactical vehicle and planned to acquire another.

As the national debate metastasizes, we will continue to cover the stories that help Americans understand what their local PD is up to. You can read all of Watchdog.org’s stories uncovering the state-level impact of the 1033 Program HERE.

“A full-throated argument — even an angry one full of distortion and political bias — has been long overdue,” wrote New Mexico Watchdog reporter Rob Nikolewski as he reflected on what has become America’s “militarization moment.”

“After all, local police forces are funded with tax dollars that come from each and every one of us. Police are public servants, first and foremost, just like our elected public servants, our mayors, city councilors and clerks.”

Protected: Why Good Talent Is Hard to Find

Monday, August 25th, 2014

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North Dakota State Employee Accused of Misusing Public Funds

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Ben Yount Speaking on the Illinois Governor’s Race

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Director of Marketing and Outreach

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

The Franklin Center is a fast-paced, fluid organization that employs a staff of investigative and political reporters across the country, trains and empowers citizen journalists, and supports a network of bloggers. We seek a highly motivated individual to join our Outreach/Marketing Team.

The Director of Marketing and Outreach will oversee Franklin’s external marketing and outreach, but the role itself will be very internally focused. The Director will concentrate on managing people and projects, as well as maximizing the effectiveness of Franklin’s marketing and outreach efforts. While a background in marketing or outreach is preferred, our highest priority is finding someone who is a strong manager/mentor who will embrace Franklin’s unique culture and help us achieve desired outcomes.

The Director of Marketing and Outreach will be based in Franklin’s Alexandria, Virginia office, and report to the Senior Vice President. APPLY HERE

Responsibilities and Tasks Include:

  • Developing and implementing a marketing and outreach strategy
  • Serving as day to day manager of personnel and projects focused on marketing Franklin’s content and work to the broader world
  • Oversight of departmental budget
  • Development of print, digital and other collateral promotional products
  • Managing special projects, including seminars and events
  • Ensuring the integration of marketing functions/outreach functions with other groups and departments within the organization to enhance our external communication abilities
  • Oversight of Social Media


  • 5-7+ years of experience in communications, marketing, outreach, or fundraising preferred
  • Strong people management skills; passion for cultivating, empowering, and professionally developing lower level staff
  • Successful track record of problem solving; confronting issues head-on and addressing them
  • Self-motivated; outcome-oriented
  • Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously, turn ideas into action, and drive projects to completion
  • Big picture mentality; ability to see how all the moving parts of an operation fit together
  • Superior organization and focus on detail
  • Solid administrative skill set
  • Strong written & verbal communication skills
  • Budgeting experience
  • Knowledge of business to business marketing, email marketing, and social media
  • Understanding of the importance of marketing and outreach to the success of an organization such as ours
  • Knowledge of the free-market nonprofit movement a plus

To apply, click here. (note: applicants will only be considered through Talent Market)

Josh Kaib, Assistant Editor of Watchdog Wire

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

Josh KaibHailing from Pittsburgh, PA, Josh Kaib joined the Citizen Watchdog team in September 2012. He developed an interest in politics and government at an early age, leading him to the swamp of Washington, DC where he currently studies communications and marketing. Prior to interning for Watchdog Wire, Josh interned for a congressional campaign and worked for a political consultant.

Pat McGuigan Discusses Native American Land Infringement

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Protected: Proof That More Reporters Are Becoming Less in Love With Obama

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

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Communications Senior Writer – Paid Position

Friday, June 13th, 2014

About the Franklin Center

Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity strives to promote the education of the public about waste, corruption, incompetence, fraud and taxpayer abuse by public officials at all levels of government. With transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility as its watchwords, the Franklin Center identifies, trains, and supports investigative journalists working to detect and expose corruption and incompetence in government at the state and local levels. For more information on the Franklin Center please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org or our news site, Watchdog.org.

Position Description

The Franklin Center is seeking a highly motivated writer to join the Communications Team. Applicants should have experience writing in the op-ed format and feel comfortable writing argumentatively on a variety of policy matters, including energy, education, technology, healthcare, and civil liberties. He or she should have superior organization and focus on detail, the ability to manage multiple projects at once, and the desire to take ownership of projects and see them through to the finish.

The ideal candidate will be able to quickly dissect and understand policy, craft a unique, nuanced perspective consistent with the free-market ideology, and write columns of 500-700 words that are compelling and well-reasoned. Strong editing skills and the ability to perform on deadline are a must. Past political writing experience is required; 2-3 years of writing experience is preferred.

Responsibilities and Tasks Include:

  • Monitor the news and propose op-ed ideas to the Director of Public Affairs
  • Conduct research and write columns on deadline
  • Manage long-term strategic issue advocacy projects
  • Coordinate with senior executives on op-ed projects
  • Assist in writing press releases and other public communications
  • Prepare executives for media appearances by writing issue briefings
  • Edit columns for content, style, and accuracy

To apply, please send a resume to Michael.Moroney@franklincenterhq.org


Watchdog Wire Texas Editor – Paid Position

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Do you love writing? Are you passionate about working with grassroots activists and making a difference in Texas? Would you like to help the Watchdog Wire team recruit and mentor new citizen journalists in the Lone Star State–all while working from home?

If you answered yes, you should consider applying to be a State Editor for Watchdog Wire Texas. This is a part-time, paid position, perfect for anyone who is highly motivated, willing to work a couple of hours each day, and looking to make money for doing something they enjoy!

Here’s how the job works:

  • The editor is responsible for populating Watchdog Wire Texas with content, from citizen contributors and credible blogs and news sources. These stories should be relevant to citizens throughout Texas and within the scope of Watchdog Wire’s mission.
  • The editor will review, edit, and publish contributions from citizen contributors, ensure that all material follows the Watchdog Wire Style Guide and policy guidelines, reach out to contributors who need coaching, and contribute at least 1-2 stories of his or her own each week.
  • The editor will also be responsible for communicating with contributors on a regular basis with story ideas and other information.

Applicants should have strong copy-editing and writing skills, a proficiency in sound journalism and media practices, as well as a keen sense of newsworthiness. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are needed to effectively recruit local bloggers as contributors to Watchdog Wire and mentor contributors with their writing.

It is preferred that the editor is native to Texas or has strong personal and professional connections to the region. Applicants should have a knowledge and passion for the economic and policy issues affecting the state. Editors will be temporarily contracted to dedicate 1.5-2 hours a day to this role and will receive a stipend for their efforts on a month-to-month contract basis.

Watchdog Wire will also consider a co-editor partnership with two individuals who would like to work together in this pursuit.

If interested, please send your resume and writing samples to Jackie.Moreau@franklincenterhq.org.