The American Civil Liberties Union is asking police departments in Michigan for information about their use of military-style weapons and tactics.
The ACLU sent public records requests this week to police departments in Detroit, Flint and Dearborn, as well as the Michigan State Police. Similar requests were sent to cities in 22 other states.
“We’re very much concerned about military policing disproportionately effecting poor communities,” says Sarah Mehta, an ACLU staff attorney, “Particularly communities of color, who are already often the target of hyper policing.”
And it’s not just about military firepower on Michigan’s streets.
Mehta says the organization is concerned that local law enforcement is using military technology in ways that may infringe on the rights of Americans.
“The use of drones alone raises a lot of questions and issues the types of surveillance activities that police are involved in,” says Mehta.
In recent years, the Obama administration has stepped up programs which make local police departments eligible to get military-grade guns, tanks, armor, and armored personnel carriers. The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security have given, or assisted local police departments in getting, billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment.