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Inside the “black box” of 1033 Program military equipment use by local law enforcement

Wendy M. Koslicki (Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 16 June 2023

Issue publication date: 30 June 2023




Recent USA police responses to civil rights demonstrations have drawn attention toward the 1033 Program – a military surplus transfer program from the Department of Defense (DOD) to police agencies in the USA – as well as calls for dissolution or reform of the program. However, policy decisions have been sporadic and empirical literature examining the program have relied on public data, which contain information about equipment transfers, but does not show the frequency of agencies' use of this equipment – or contexts of use – once received.


This study presents the findings of a survey of a national sample of law enforcement agencies that used the program to obtain armored vehicles, rifles, and body armor and how these agencies used this equipment in 2019 and 2020. Correlations and binary logistic regression models are tested for 2019 to examine the racial threat hypothesis and additional predictors of equipment use.


A statistically significant correlation is found between perceived percentage of Black and other race residents and the frequency of armored vehicle deployment in 2019 and between the perceived percentage of other race residents and the percentage of special weapons and tactics (SWAT) officers wearing body armor. Perceived increases in drug crimes also significantly increase the likelihood of SWAT officers carrying military rifles, with increased odds of 402.3%.


This study is the first to examine contextual data surrounding law enforcement use of 1033 Program acquisitions with a national sample, assisting in providing greater accuracy in determining predictors and outcomes of the program's use.



The author thanks Dr Morczek for her support and advice, as well as E. Wilken, R. Kubicki, K. Hile and J. George for the survey distribution assistance.


Koslicki, W.M. (2023), "Inside the “black box” of 1033 Program military equipment use by local law enforcement", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 46 No. 3, pp. 553-566.



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