Do We Really Need Tanks And Surveillance Drones To Police North Dakota?


Republican Senator Tom Coburn is great about releasing reports from his office detailing the waste of our tax dollars. His most recent report takes a long, hard look at Homeland Security spending. The full report is here, but below is an excerpt talking about some wasteful spending here in North Dakota.

The Fargo Police Department purchased, with federal Homeland Security funding, what amounts to a tank (minus the big gun). This despite Fargo’s very low crime rates (by national standards). What has this very expensive piece of equipment been used for so far? Training exercises, and an appearance near a bounce house at a city picnic.

Reports found that Fargo, North Dakota, received more than $8 million in homeland security
grants, which is significant considering its local crime record. Fargo, a town which “has averaged fewer than 2 homicides per year since 2005” bought a “new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating [gun] turret” using homeland security funds.

Fargo Police Lieutenant Ross Renner acknowledges that Fargo “[does not] have every-day threats here when it comes to terrorism.” It is for this reason perhaps that as of December 2011 the vehicle was only used for “training runs and appearances at the annual Fargo picnic, where it’s been displayed near a children’s bounce house.”


This actually made a lot of news late last year – nationally, not so much locally – but it’s worth mentioning again what with the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Department obtaining a license for a surveillance drone (how much is that costing?). All of which makes me think we’re going a little bit overboard in militarizing small-town police departments.

Militarizing Mayberry, so to say.

Do we really need tanks and surveillance drones to police North Dakota? It’s not only a question of spending – our bankrupt federal government shouldn’t be shelling out this stuff – but a question of need and mission creep.

What’s scarier than the fact that they’re buying this stuff is the idea that they might start actually using it.

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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