$66M in military-grade equipment distributed to Ohio police agencies since 1995

Cincinnati police elects not to participate

CINCINNATI – The largest local police agency is conspicuously missing from a list of departments that have received surplus military gear from the government: Cincinnati police.

Records obtained by WCPO from the Ohio Department of Public Safety, show that nearly 65,000 tactical and non-tactical military-grade items were given to 549 Ohio agencies since 1995. Local police departments can apply for military equipment — including guns, armored personnel carriers as well as more mundane items like desks and file cabinets—under U.S. Department of Defense Program 1033. That program was authorized in 1990 to help local police agencies combat drug trafficking. It was subsequently broadened in the mid-1990s and escalated after 9/11 to fight terrorism. 

Specifically, the Defense Department started the excess supply program as it was bringing gear from Desert Storm back to the states in 1991. The federal program has come under scrutiny since police in Ferguson, Mo., used surplus military equipment in clashes with protesters.

Large, urban police departments such as Columbus and Cleveland, and rural departments such as the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, received gear ranging from steam pressure cleaners to brassieres to mine resistant vehicles. Roughly $66 million in equipment has been distributed throughout the state, according to agency-specific itemized records obtained by WCPO.

“It’s a really a basic and simple program,” said Craig Batzer, the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s law enforcement support officer, who manages requests from local agencies, inventory and applications. “The taxpayers paid for (the equipment), and we are re-purposing the property; that way the taxpayer is not buying it a second time (on a local level).”

WCPO Insiders may view an interactive table listing what every participating Ohio police agency received through the Department of Defense program, and learn why Cincinnati police elected not to participate.

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