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Pentagon releases new details of weapons program in Southern California

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN - MARCH 08:  MRAP vehicles sit in the Redistribution Property Accountability Team (RPAT) yard at Kandahar Airfield (KAF) on March 8, 2014 near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The RPAT facility is responsible for shipping military equipment back to the United States after it has been damaged or is no longer need in Afghanistan. The facility also redistributes equipment within the country if its needed by another unit. President Obama recently ordered the Pentagon to begin contingency planning for a pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 if Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai or his successor refuses to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Scott Olson/Getty Images
MRAP vehicles sit in the Redistribution Property Accountability Team yard at Kandahar Airfield near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The RPAT facility is responsible for shipping military equipment back to the United States after it has been damaged or is no longer need in Afghanistan.

Southern California law enforcement agencies have more than 400,000 pieces of military-grade equipment - including thousands of rifles and dozens of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles designed to withstand bomb blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan, records show.

Related: Militarized police? An FAQ on the Pentagon's surplus program

Data released late last month by the Department of Defense details exactly which local law enforcement agencies have which excess military items distributed by its 1033 program. The data makes clear some of the equipment that resides with Southern California law enforcement agencies includes the same types of guns and vehicles that raised concerns about the police response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Ferguson protests included confrontations between protestors and police armed with automatic weapons and military vehicles, drawing attention to the 24 year-old 1033 program.

The inventory of 1033 equipment in California includes everything from dozens of refrigerators to thousands of rifles. The Los Angeles Police Department received 1,678 rifles through the program between 2007 and 2012. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has 1,085 rifles donated between 2007 and 2011. Other 1033 equipment present in Southern California include a helicopter, a cargo airplane, trucks, forklifts and boats at the LAPD, and bomb-defusing robots at the L.A. Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff's departments in Los Angeles and Orange Counties acquired the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, via the 1033 program in 2013 and 2014. So did police departments in El Monte, Claremont, Pomona, Whittier and Placentia. Saddleback College police in Mission Viejo also received an MRAP at its roughly 25,000 student campus.

The Los Angeles School Police Department received its own MRAP via the 1033 program, but returned the vehicle after a flurry of criticism, citing concerns about costs.

The Barstow Police Department is now in possession of the vehicle, said Alex Pal, an attorney with the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services, which administers the 1033 program in the state.

In Huntington Beach, police lost a rifle acquired through the 1033 program, and are now suspended from receiving further equipment. Rifles have gone missing from seven other California agencies, mostly in Northern California, landing them on the state's suspension list.

In addition to weapons and vehicles, local agencies received scores of office and gym equipment, including items like ponchos, gloves and keyboards.

Related: The Marshall Project has developed a tool to look up the 1033 equipment at local law enforcement agencies.

As of the data release on Nov. 21, California law enforcement agencies had netted more than 200,000 items through the 1033 program in 2014. That equipment was originally valued at $64 million. Statewide, law enforcement agencies currently posses 1033 equipment originally worth $163 million.

The data does not provide a complete history of equipment dispersed through 1033 program, only the items currently at local law enforcement agencies. The agency also does not track how agencies use the equipment they receive through the program.

The 1033 program, named for its section number in the biannual Department of Defense budget bill, began in 1989 and falls under the Department of Defense's Defense Logistics Agency.

The agency's website states the program gives preference to counter-drug and counter-terrorism requests. Over the life of the program, more than $5 billion in military equipment has flowed to local law enforcement agencies.

The Obama Administration's reviewed the 1033 program and similar programs that allocate gear and supplies to law enforcement agencies. In a report earlier this month, it found lax and inconsistent oversight.

"The programs reviewed do not necessarily foster or require civil rights/civil liberties training and they generally lack mechanisms to hold LEAs accountable for the misuse or misapplication of equipment. This variation among federal agencies makes tracking the overall effects, use and misuse of federal or federally-funded equipment difficult," read the review's summary of findings.

In a meeting with President Obama, advocates allied with the Black Lives Matter protests demanded an end to the 1033 program. The program has drawn criticism from all sides of the political spectrum, including Senator Rand Paul and the American Civil Liberties Union. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., planned to introduce legislation to curb the program, but the bill has remained in a House committee since September.

The White House plans to offer specific recommendations and reforms to the 1033 and related programs in the next four months.