dcyphr | Militarization and police violence: The case of the 1033 program


The researchers hypothesize that militarization will lead to increased police violence. They studied the 1033 program, which is a U.S. Department of Defense program. It gives excess military equipment to law enforcement agencies (LEA). The researchers looked at the correlation between the amount of equipment transfers and violence. Violence was measured using civilian casualties, change in civilian casualties, and the deaths of dogs. There is a positive and statistically significant correlation between the number of transfers and violence.


Many protests against the shooting of Michael Brown occurred in the summer of 2014. Police officers had armored vehicles, gas masks, and other military equipment. Many people criticized the militarized response. The federal government created Executive Order 13688 (EO). The EO aimed to investigate the 1033 program. Also, the EO limited the type and amount of equipment that the military could give LEAs. Many politicians were against EO, claiming that there is no evidence that militarization caused unnecessary harm to citizens.

Delehanty et al. argue that militarization of LEAs will result in more violence. The large military equipment access will be conducive to a culture of militarization. The militarization will cause more officers to resort to more violent measures when perhaps other solutions are available.


Militarization is the appropriate use of force to solve problems. There are four components of militarization: material, cultural, organizational, and operational (Kraska, 2007). These four aspects affect one another. The receipt of equipment automatically increases the material part of militarization. This can lead to more training with the military equipment. Thus, more officers will rely on violence since they are trained to do so. The 1033 program has given out most military equipment to LEAs since 1997.

1033 Program and Militarization

President Bill Clinton signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997. The bill included the 1033 program. The 1033 program provided equipment worth over $1.5 billion between 2006 and April 2014. Eighty percent of counties obtained equipment.


The authors examine public data from counties in Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, and New Hampshire. They looked at 1033 receipts of equipment transfers. They use regressions to analyze possible correlations with civilian casualties and annual change in civilian casualties. They control for confounding variables, such as wealth, drug use, and demographics. They also try to establish a possible causal relationship by looking at LEA requests for military equipment. The other variable they look at is civilian dogs killed by LEAs.


In Nevada, counties that did not have 1033 transfers had no LEA killing (Figure 1).

Increased receipt of military equipment corresponded to increased civilian casualties (Figure 2). A county that receives the maximum amount of equipment is expected to have 129%% more civilian casualties than a county that receives no military equipment. Furthermore, the increased receipt corresponded to an increase in predicted change in civilian deaths (Figure 3).

Alternative dependent variable: dog casualties

A LEA may correctly anticipate problems with civilians and request more military equipment. Thus, looking at civilian casualties may give a biased result. Thus, the researchers used civilian dog casualties for another analysis. They do not expect that LEAs will consider pet casualties when requesting equipment. LEAs that request more equipment have much more dog casualties.


This evidence-based study aims to help analyze the 1033 program. But, more research is needed due to the lack of public data on police violence. Also, no research can prove a causal effect. So, this paper uses multiple dependent variables.

The Executive Order may help save lives by taking away military equipment. Other studies suggest that militarization also results in increased violence towards police. So, demilitarization may save both police and civilians. More research is needed on how the other components of militarization may decrease violence. This paper studied the militarization effect on the organization level. Another remaining question is the effect of military equipment on the individual level.