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Police Nationwide Continue Adding Military Equipment

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President Obama is asking for a review of a government program that has been arming thousands of police departments nationwide -- including a number of South Florida forces -- with old military weapons and equipment.

An investigation by Daniel Rivero, a producer at Fusion in Doral, has found roughly 18,000 departments in the U.S. have registered for the hardware and about 8,000 have received it already.

The federal initiative, known as Program 1033, has its origins in the 1990s when it was called the National Defense Authorization Act. It was aimed at helping police in the war on drugs.

Procurements under the act are not a matter of public record. But Rivero says agencies are receiving all sorts of equipment from different wars.

"That can be old weapons that came back from Vietnam or it's relatively new weapons that are coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," he says. "And all the other kind of military equipment including office furniture."

Rivero adds that in some cases rocket launchers have been distributed to police forces.

South Florida agencies receiving military gear include Coral Gables, Hialeah, Miami Gardens and Virginia Gardens. Rivero approached the police chief in Virginia Gardens to ask why they needed a Commando armored car.

"He told me they have it specifically, the reasons that they listed were, in the case of a natural disaster, mainly a flood," says Rivero. "Virginia Gardens, while it is small, it is flood prone."

Florida International University police received an anti-mine vehicle as well as 50 M-16 assault rifles. Even though President Obama has asked for a review of the 1033 program, Rivero says it’s not likely to go anywhere since the program helps departments fill in the gaps where their budgets are cut short.