Alton, IL

Local Police and Military Equipment

Story by WBGZ Radio

President Donald Trump has civil liberty advocates concerned over his planned rollback of President Barack Obama's executive order banning police from leasing military equipment. In Illinois, the program has seen some purchases that raise eyebrows. 

A suburban Chicago community college leased more than a dozen M16 assault rifles. One of the lowest-crime cities in suburban Illinois that touts its gun control ordinances leased 20 M16 rifles. Rural counties have leased helicopters valued at more than $1 million. These are some of the items leased by police forces in Illinois since the federal 1033 program began in 1996. 

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The program has received its share of criticism. In the wake of protests in Ferguson, Missouri, Obama filed an executive order banning the issuance of many items from the surplus program. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in late August that Trump's administration plans to roll back that order. 

Adam Andrzejewski, founder of the non-profit Open the Books, is concerned about the militarization of local police forces. 

"They need to answer the fundamental question: What is the legitimate law enforcement purpose for this equipment?" he said. "Park districts, forest preserves, and junior colleges are all receiving this type of military gear."

Des Plaines Police Chief Bill Kushner said many departments save taxpayer dollars by getting necessary equipment for pennies on the dollar, but he can't explain some of the leases. 

"The LESO program does afford the opportunity to equip the police department to the best level possible for the least amount of money and the least burden on the taxpayer," he said. "But why do you need 14 .308 rounds when the average distance between homes is six feet?"

He's referring to the leasing of high-powered rifles that could penetrate multiple homes if shot in an urban area.

You can see what your local police departments have leased through the program at


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