So since at least the 1990s, with congressional approval, the Pentagon has sent extra military equipment to local law enforcement agencies in every state, including to police and sheriff’s departments; prisons; and school, university and park police.
The program expanded after the 9/11 attacks, when federal officials began to view police departments as critical to fighting terrorism.
But the program drew criticism when media showed images of police in body armor, riding on armored vehicles and aiming semiautomatic rifles during protests in Ferguson, Mo., over the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager.
And after a review, the Obama administration is directing law enforcement agencies across the country to give back by April 1 armored vehicles that run on tracks, .50-caliber machine guns, grenade launchers, bayonets and camouflage clothing.
And some police say this means they're being left without critical tools in an age of heightened fears about terrorism and mass shootings.