PHILADELPHIA - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and ACLU affiliates in 22 other states today simultaneously filed over 255 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.

"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. "We've seen examples of this in several localities, but we don't know the dimensions of the problem."

The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed public records requests with 29 local law enforcement agencies and the Pennsylvania State Police. The requests seek information about the use of:

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

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

The ACLU of Pennsylvania also filed a request with the Pennsylvania National Guard seeking information regarding:

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

"Pennsylvanians deserve to know the extent to which our local police are using military weapons and tactics for everyday policing," said Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "The militarization of local police is a threat to Americans' right to live without fear of military-style intervention in their daily lives, and we need to make sure these resources and tactics are deployed only with rigorous oversight and strong legal protections."

ACLU affiliates from 23 states filed the public records requests. Once the information has been collected and analyzed, if needed, the ACLU will use the results to recommend changes in law and policy governing the use of military tactics and technology in local law enforcement.

In Pennsylvania, a total of 31 requests were filed with the following agencies and municipalities:

  • Adams County Drug Task Force (DTF)
  • Abington Township SWAT
  • Allegheny County SWAT
  • Allentown Emergency Response Team (ERT)
  • Armstrong County DTF
  • Beaver County Emergency Services Unit/DTF
  • Bedford County DTF
  • Berks County ERT/DTF
  • Blair County DTF
  • Bucks County Major Incident Response Team (MIRT)
  • Cambria County Special Emergency Response Team (SERT)
  • Central Montgomery County SWAT/MIRT
  • Centre County Tactical Response Team
  • Chester County MIRT/ Western Chester County ERT
  • Cheltenham Township SWAT
  • Cumberland County SWAT/ DTF
  • Dauphin County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)/DTF
  • Delaware County MIRT
  • Erie (City)
  • Erie County
  • Johnstown Township
  • Lancaster County
  • Lehigh County MERT
  • Middleton Township
  • New Kensington Crisis Response Team (CRT)
  • Pennsylvania National Guard
  • Pennsylvania State Police
  • Philadelphia Police Department
  • Pittsburgh Bureau of Police
  • Richland Township
  • York County Quick Response Team (QRT)

More information about the requests