AUSTIN (KXAN) — In the wake of violent protests in Ferguson, Missouri and the ensuing police response, many have pointed out police forces there have received surplus equipment from the U.S. military.
The Austin Police Department uses equipment from the Texas 1033 program, where law enforcement agencies across the state can receive surplus equipment from the Department of Defense for free.
Texas 1033 can provide agencies weapons, aircraft, computers, night vision equipment and gym equipment.
Another piece of equipment police department can acquire is a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP. They are armored vehicles used in battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan by the military. The Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office has a MRAP in service. In civilian use, they typically serve as SWAT vehicles.
The only weapons APD has received are several M14 rifles they received nearly a decade ago. The M14 rifles sit in storage and are used by honor guards when police officers are killed. They also serve as backups for APD’s SWAT team; however, SWAT officers have not been trained on how to use them.
The agency has also received clothing, including wet weather gear, through the program. They have also received a lot of backpacks the military got rid of when they changed the style of backpacks provided to service members.
In the last decade, APD has even acquired a helicopter through the program as well as spare parts.
Austin Police have also received more than 200 kevlar helmets. APD says they are not bulletproof, but rather intended to protect users from shrapnel. The helmets can be deployed with Special Response Teams, the group of officers that would be sent to monitor protests like the ones in Ferguson, Missouri.
Those helmets are the last ones APD will ever see from the military because after a lawsuit was filed, the military now destroys helmets.