ACLU-WA Investigates Police Use of Military Technology and Tactics

News Release: 
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

ACLU of Washington Joins Nationwide Investigation into Police Use of Military Technology and Tactics

Militarization of Local Law Enforcement Encourages Overly Aggressive Policing

Contact: Doug Honig, ACLU of WA, (206) 624-2184 or Tom Rosenthal, ACLU, (212) 549-2582;

The ACLU of Washington and ACLU affiliates in 23 other states today simultaneously filed public records requests to determine the extent to which local police departments are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used overseas.

“The public deserves to know how much our local police are using military weapons and tactics for everyday policing,” said Brian Robick, ACLU-WA senior policy strategist. “We need to make sure these resources and tactics are deployed only with rigorous oversight and strong legal protections.”

“Equipping state and local law enforcement with military weapons and vehicles, military tactical training, and actual military assistance to conduct traditional law enforcement erodes civil liberties and encourages increasingly aggressive policing, particularly in poor neighborhoods and communities of color,” said Kara Dansky, senior counsel for ACLU’s Center for Justice.

The ACLU-WA filed public disclosure requests with local law enforcement agencies in Spokane County, Whatcom County, Pierce County, and Quincy, as well as the WA State Patrol and the WA Military Department, seeks information on the use of:

Cutting edge weapons and technologies, including:

  • GPS tracking devices
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (“drones”)
  • Augmented detainee restraint (“shock-cuffs”)
  • Military weaponry, equipment, and vehicles obtained from or funded by federal agencies such as the Departments of Defense and/or Homeland Security

SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) Teams, including:

  • Number and purpose of deployments
  • Types of weapons used during deployments
  • Injuries sustained by civilians during deployments
  • Training materials
  • Funding sources

Another request, filed with the Washington National Guard, seeks information regarding:

  • Cooperative agreements between local police departments and the National Guard counter-drug program
  • Incidents of National Guard contact with civilians

Once the information has been collected and analyzed, the ACLU will use the results to recommend any needed changes in law and policy governing the use of military tactics and technology in local law enforcement.

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