Since 1997, law enforcement agencies in Wyoming have acquired $5.7 million in military gear through the Department of Defense 1033 Program.
That’s according to a recent release of national 1033 data that makes available all of Wyoming’s acquisitions in the embeddable chart below. The chart was created by the Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization devoted to criminal justice reporting.
Over the past year, the 1033 program has faced criticism, particularly after the appearance of armored patrol vehicles in the police response to protests in Ferguson, MO. Critics across the political spectrum argue such equipment contributes to the militarization of police forces, and the potential escalation of conflicts. Police use of military equipment has come under the scrutiny of President Obama and a Senate committee.
Wyoming law enforcement’s new military gear
The most notable items on Wyoming’s list of military equipment are four Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles — also known as MRAPs. These vehicles were designed to withstand improvised explosive devices and saw extensive use during the Iraq war. With the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, large numbers of MRAPs were shipped back to the United States and distributed at no cost to local law enforcement agencies, except for fuel and ongoing maintenance expenses.
As reported by the Casper Star-Tribune, the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office acquired a $733,000 mine resistant vehicle and $130,000 armored truck. Cheyenne picked up two mine resistant vehicles, while a tactical response team in the Big Horn Basin also got one.
Campbell County received a tracked personnel carrier worth $244,000. A number of counties acquired utility trucks worth more than $100,000.
Many Wyoming police departments took advantage of the program to acquire rifles, and a few received .45 caliber automatic pistols.
The Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington prison got a grenade launcher, one of several brought to the county.
Law enforcement officers in Wyoming have said they could use the MRAP vehicles to respond to live-shooter situations, or potentially rescue people stranded by floods. The vehicle in Natrona County can carry 12 passengers.
“(If) it saves one life, it’s worth all the money we spend on it,” Washakie County Sheriff Steve Rakness told the Northern Wyoming Daily News.
No one can predict if or when such equipment will be mobilized. Wyoming has one of the ten lowest rates of violent crime in the country. Yet Wyoming has seen a number of large scale armed riots over the course of its history, most of which took place during the territorial period in the 1800s. More recently Wyoming has experienced school attacks, armed bank robberies, and the hijacking of a bulldozer and a locomotive.