Law enforcement in Lafayette Parish is bristling with weapons — a well-armed status enhanced by a Defense Department program that has made obtaining surplus weapons, vehicles and other equipment relatively easy for everyone from small-town police departments to urban sheriff’s offices. Case in point: Ferguson, Mo.
An interactive map created by the The New York Times allows users to search by county/parish and see what their local law enforcement agencies have availed themselves of since 2006. In Lafayette Parish’s case — the map doesn’t differentiate between sheriff, police, marshal or state police troops — its more than 150 assault rifles, three shotguns and an armored vehicle.
In terms of the value of the assets, Lafayette is pretty run of the mill. A widget created by Caspio lists the assets along with their cost. All those assault rifles obtained by Lafayette cost the parish, purchased typically through federal grants, a mere $120 apiece; the assault vehicle had a sticker price of $150,000.
But head over to a comparable parish, say, St. Tammany, and we find they’ve acquired a $150,000 assault vehicle of their own, plus a $190,000 helicopter and, here’s the kicker, a $733,000 mine-resistant vehicle. Because of all those IEDs in St. Tammany? Oh, and they grabbed up 50 assault rifles, too. At the other end of southern Louisiana, Calcasieu Parish bought everything from two mine-resistant vehicles and 208 assault rifles to 27 bayonets ($48.95 apiece) and even 78 liners for aviation jackets ($95.47 apiece).