Special Report

Most Expensive Military Equipment US Police Departments Are Using

Since its adoption in the 1990s, the National Defense Authorization Act has allowed police departments across the country to procure billions of dollars worth of surplus military equipment. Even though the NDAA prohibits the transfer of vehicles that inherently contain weaponry, such as Bradley fighting vehicles or armed drones, it is often blamed for the increasing militarization of American law enforcement. 

Such criticisms are not unfounded, as many police departments have acquired small arms and armored vehicles through the program. However, the vast majority of equipment obtained under the NDAA are non-lethal items that would otherwise go to the general public, such as office equipment, cameras, and first aid kits. (Here is a look at the most militarized local police departments in America.)

In the past 33 years, the Department of Defense has distributed over $7 billion-worth of excess equipment to law enforcement agencies. That value is driven in large part by a relatively small segment of vehicles, aircraft, and high-tech equipment. 

Using data from the Defense Logistics Agency of the DOD, 24/7 Wall St. identified the most expensive military equipment obtained by police departments. Only items shipped to law enforcement between 2010 and the first quarter of 2023 were considered. Items are ranked on the upper limit of their value, which ranges from nearly $600,000 to $22 million. It is important to note that costs associated with these acquisitions reflect the original price paid by the military. Law enforcement agencies are only responsible for costs associated with shipping, maintenance, and storage. 

The most expensive military equipment used by law enforcement include training simulators, various aircraft, infrared and x-ray imaging equipment, as well as armored vehicles. While these implements were initially designed for military use, they have all been deemed to have practical applications in law enforcement. 

Many of the equipment on this list, such as unmanned ground vehicles, armored vehicles, and infrared imaging systems, help reduce the likelihood of serious injury or death to law enforcement officers in dangerous situations. Others, like training simulators and various aircraft, can help improve a department’s effectiveness. (Here is a look at the states spending the most on police per person.

Click here to see the most expensive military equipment police departments are buying. 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that law enforcement agencies purchase the military equipment on this list. In actuality, law enforcement agencies are only responsible for costs related to shipping, maintenance, and storage. 

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