Safariland CEO Warren Kanders with his wife Allison at the Whitney Museum of American Art's 2012 gala.

 

(Image: Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images.)

TYT Investigates

Tear Gas Maker Has History of Controversy

Tear gas canisters fired at migrants at the Tijuana border this weekend reportedly were manufactured by Safariland, LLC, the same firm that provided similar munitions used in other recent controversial incidents.

Safariland is a defense supplies vendor whose name reportedly was printed on canisters of smoke or tear gas used on migrants in Mexico, including women and children, by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) over the weekend. Safariland munitions reportedly were also linked to the 2014 police crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri, and allegedly used at the Standing Rock showdown over water rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016.

In a lawsuit stemming from the Standing Rock clashes, activist Sophia Wilansky alleged that her left hand was nearly severed and her left arm was disfigured and disabled by a Defense Technology flashbang grenade. Defense Technology is a Safariland brand.

The California and Florida-based company is owned by investor Warren Kanders, who also serves as its CEO. Kanders and his wife are affiliated with prestigious institutions including the Aspen Institute and the Whitney Museum of American Art. They have contributed large sums of money to the Republican Party, but more recently became active backers of Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), according to FEC data reviewed by TYT.

See related story on the Kanders donations to Booker and others.

In September, TYT reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had contracted to use a Safariland product called the “TranZport Hood.” The Trump administration authorized the use of the hood in September of 2017 in an internal document obtained by TYT through a Freedom of Information request.

"TranZport Hood" produced by Safariland for use on detainees.

(Image: Screengrab of promotional photo at HandcuffWarehouse.com.)

Also in September, Safariland was awarded what appears to be its largest ever subcontract from CBP, worth $526,799, according to a federal government database.

The records also show that Safariland was subcontracted by Aardvark Tactical Inc., a company that sells chemical agents for crowd control. Federal records show the primary contract was a delivery order to be completed between Sept. 4, 2018, and Feb. 28, 2019.

The purpose of the contract is to “complete delivery order of chemical munitions.” The records also indicate “too many line items for system on the original request.” The only additional specifications say that the contract is for “ammunition (except small arms)” between 30mm and 75mm.

Federal data also show that the overwhelming majority of contract funds awarded to Safariland by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came from its CBP sub-agency. In total, CBP has awarded $2,152,485 in contracts to Safariland. CBP has also awarded $759,838 in subcontracts to Safariland.

Another DHS sub-agency that awards a large amount of funds to Safariland is Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In total, ICE has awarded $1,018,647 in subcontracted funds to Safariland and $463,757 in direct contracts.

This year, Safariland shattered its previous record amount of DHS subcontract funding, claiming some $1,065,493. It has already garnered $475,365 in subcontracts for 2019.

A map generated by the federal database website depicts the place of performance for the funds awarded by DHS to Safariland and shows significant sums going to southern border states California, New Mexico and Texas.

Map showing locations of Safariland's federal contracts.

(Image: USASpending.gov.)

DHS isn’t Safariland’s only benefactor. The Defense Department has so far awarded Safariland $4,763,109 in subcontracted funds for 2018, a sum that dwarfs all preceding years.

The largest contract awarded to Safariland by the Defense Department, totaling $16,049,048 and extending through 2030, bears the description, “M1029, 40MM non-lethal crowd dispersal.”

The term “non-lethal” has been opposed due to the weaponry’s use in some fatal incidents, and outside law enforcement the weapons are sometimes referred to as “less-lethal.” The name “Safariland” apparently derives from the “African safari excursions” enjoyed by its original founder, who created the company in 1964.

Today, Safariland bills itself as a company whose equipment saves lives. Its trademarked mission statement is “Together, We Save Lives.”

The firm’s website says, “We continuously seek new innovations to add to the premier group of Safariland brands that have been protecting law enforcement, military and security professionals for over 50 years.”

Ken Klippenstein is a senior investigative reporter for TYT. He can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or via email: [email protected].

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