AARDVARK Tactical sells military-grade tactical equipment, including armor, TASERs, crowd control weapons, acoustic hailing devices, robots, personal protective products, personnel/vehicle search equipment, and vehicle stopping systems, to law enforcement, prison, and immigration agencies.
Note: This company profile was written as part of AFSC's 2022 report Equipped for War: Exposing Militarized Policing in California.
AARDVARK Tactical is a privately-owned company headquartered in La Verne, California. It was founded in 1987 by Jon Becker and is owned by him and his spouse Melissa Becker. As of 2022, the company reportedly employed 23 people and generated an estimated $6.2 million in annual sales.
AARDVARK sells tactical weapons and equipment to federal, state, and local government agencies. It also repackages other companies' tactical equipment into special AARDVARK-branded "mission-specific kits." The company claims to have sold more than 4.3 million individual products to customers in over 1,000 destinations around the world.
AARDVARK is primarily a military weapons and equipment company. Between 2008 and 2022, AARDVARK's contracts with the Department of Defense (DOD) totaled $269.7 million, accounting for 61.8% of its overall federal contracts. AARDVARK has provided the Army, Air Force, Navy, and other agencies of the U.S. military with crowd control weapons, TASERs, chemical munitions, ballistic body armor and other riot gear, restraints, and "miscellaneous weapons." The company's press releases prominently feature its sales of "nonlethal" weapons to the U.S. military, including, for example, a $1 million contract for "Protective, Crowd Control and Detention Equipment" that it held with the Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO), a U.S. military joint task force in charge of overseeing Guantanamo "detainees."
AARDVARK also contracts with federal immigration and law enforcement agencies. Between 2008 and 2022, the company held contracts totaling $79.6 million with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), accounting for 18.2% of its overall federal contracts. The company has supplied U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with TASERs and related accessories, chemical munitions, including smoke grenades, "disturbance control kits," surveillance equipment, tactical robots, and more. In 2018, when former President Donald Trump deployed 5,600 soldiers to the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a mission deemed "Operation Faithful Patriot," the Army reportedly provided CBP officers with riot shields, tactical shin guards, extendable batons, less-lethal munitions, and other anti-riot weapons purchased from AARDVARK.
In 2015, AARDVARK announced plans to dramatically expand its offerings to federal, state, and local law enforcement businesses by entering into new manufacturer partnerships, adding to its AARDVARK product line, offering new training events, creating new social media outlets geared towards law enforcement tactical interests, and hiring more law enforcement-adjacent staff. Prior to 2015, all press releases published on AARDVARK's website focused on "non-lethal" weapons used by the military, contracts with DOD agencies, and military trainings. Shortly after announcing its expansion into the law enforcement market, AARDVARK began publishing press releases about supplying less-lethal weapons to police forces abroad and offering new products to law enforcement.
Between 2008 and 2022, the company supplied the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), and other Department of Justice (DOJ) agencies with more than $15.3 million worth of TASERs, drones, breaching tools, less-lethal munitions, and other military-grade equipment. AARDVARK's contracts with federal law enforcement agencies increased from $377,574 in 2015 two just over $3.6 million in 2020.
AARDVARK also contributes to the militarization of the police at the state and local levels by selling less-lethal weapons and surveillance equipment to law enforcement agencies in, for example, California, Delaware, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. 17 law enforcement agencies that responded to our records request have purchased tactical equipment from AARDVARK. Popular purchases have included, for example, military-style smoke grenades, 40mm projectiles and tactical projectile launchers, rubber-coated bullets, and body armor. According to company CEO Jon Becker, AARDVARK makes little distinction between police officers "in Los Angeles serving a warrant" and military operators in "Afghanistan hunting the Taliban."
AARDVARK primarily equips police departments with less-lethal weapons, many of which have been improperly used against community members. For example, the company supplies police with 40mm rubber-coated bullets and Genasys-branded long range acoustic devices (LRADs) for crowd control use. Police routinely use these less-lethal weapons against protestors. In the summer of 2020, for instance, police fired rubber bullets purchased from AARDVARK at Black Lives Matter protestors in Portland, Ore. Police use of rubber bullets has resulted in injuries ranging from bruises, lacerations, concussions, and fractured bones to permanent loss of sight.
AARDVARK also sells surveillance tools, including small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) drones, to U.S. police departments. In March 2021, the company became the exclusive North American distributor of the LOKI Mk2 tactical drone after partnering with Sky-Hero, a Belgian company that manufactures drones for police officers, soldiers, and security services. These drones are designed to operate in confined, indoor spaces, and can provide real-time video and audio feedback in complete darkness. They are intended primarily for "military use."
When California's Pasadena Police Department announced plans to purchase LOKI drones from AARDVARK in 2021, community and council members raised concerns that the drones would turn the city "into a military zone" in "Black and brown neighborhoods" and pave the way for police use of hyper-militarized robotic weapons.
In addition to selling militarized weapons and equipment to police departments, AARDVARK previously hosted its own annual SWAT competition for law enforcement and "military tactical operators." The annual event featured handgun trainings on speed shooting, shooting on the move, and sniper shooting; demos on impact munitions; military-style obstacle courses; and other combat lessons.