Police Bayonets – Whose Idea Was That?

Have you already heard about police bayonets?

I have written about the militarization of police so much that sometimes I simply ignore the stories and look for other fare. So I almost missed NPR’s revelation that, along with the grenade launchers, and the armored vehicles, the military is giving police bayonets (and combat knives too).


I have seen footage from other countries of riot police using all sorts of gear to put down a mob. Greece under austerity comes to mind. But I have never heard of police being armed with bayonets to deal with attackers.

What would be the point of bayonets except to kill people through knife wounds?

Police already have guns. Do they seriously foresee a situation when they might face an opponent and run out of bullets so they will have to resort to a long knife?

Wouldn’t the governor have called in the National Guard by that point?

NPR obtained data from the Pentagon on every military item sent to local, state and federal agencies through the Pentagon’s Law Enforcement Support Office — known as the 1033 program — from 2006 through April 23, 2014. The Department of Defense does not publicly report which agencies receive each piece of equipment, but they have identified the counties that the items were shipped to, a description of each, and the amount the Pentagon initially paid for them.

We took the raw data, analyzed it and have organized it to make it more accessible. We are making that data set available to the public today.

Here’s what we found:


The 1033 program is the key source of the most visible, big-ticket, military item being sent to local law enforcement: mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs. Designed to withstand bullets, grenades and roadside bombs on the front lines of war, more than 600 of them have been sent to local law enforcement agencies in almost every state in the U.S., mostly within the past year. Los Angeles County, for example, has nine of these vehicles, six of which were obtained just this past March.

But the program is a conduit for much more than just MRAPs. Since 2006, through the 1033 program, the Pentagon has also distributed:…

…11,959 bayonets.

That is over a thousand bayonets a year!

I honestly don’t know what police are supposed to use bayonets for.

What I do think is that no local city or town would ever equip local police with bayonets. The only way this happens is when someone far away starts equipping the police without thinking about the place where these weapons will be used as their own home.

The problem with the militarization of the police is a political problem. It defies Federalism; it undermines local autonomy. The police are supposed to work for the people, serving and protecting them. The same people who need police protection should be the ones to provide their tools.