The owner of Safariland and Defense Technology, the largest US manufacturer of tear gas weapons for law enforcement. Its chemical and other crowd-control weapons are used by US border patrol, prison authorities, and police departments across the US and around the world against civilian protesters.
Cadre Holdings Inc., which does business mainly as Safariland, is a holding company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, with $427.3 million in annual revenue and 2,237 employees as of 2021. It was formed by Warren Kanders in 2021 and rebranded as a "safety and survivability" company, highlighting its body armor and other protective gear product lines. However, it also makes less-lethal weapons and ammunition, including tear gas, through its subsidiary Defense Technology.
While Safariland announced in 2020 that it would divest Defense Technology that year, it has not. Defense Technology, located in Casper, Wyoming, makes crowd control weapons, including tear gas and pepper grenades, rubber-coated steel bullets, and more. It also makes batons, restraints, and riot gear under the brand name Monadnock. It generated over $8.2 million selling tear gas products in the U.S. between 2018 and June 2021, making it the largest U.S. tear gas manufacturer. See below for more details about the non-divestment.
Cadre Holdings was officially formed in 2021, but its origins date back to Armor Holdings Inc, which Kanders formed in 1996. Through dozens of acquisitions of smaller companies, including Safariland in 1999, it became one of the world's largest manufacturers of less-lethal weapons. In 2007, it became part of British defense giant BAE Systems, and five years later Kanders re-acquired it. After rebranding as Cadre Holdings and becoming publicly traded, the company is still led by Kanders, who acts as CEO and Chairman and owns 77% of its shares.
US Military, Police, Prisons, and Immigration Authorities
Cadre Holdings makes most of its money from selling its products to U.S. state and local law enforcement and other government agencies. These sales amounted to $231 million in 2021—about 54% of Cadre Holdings' total revenue that year. The company generated another $47 million, or 11% of its total revenue, from sales to U.S. federal agencies, including the military, the Bureau of Prisons, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
U.S. Border Patrol deployed Safariland weapons against asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana in two incidents in November 2018 and January 2019, including against women with toddlers. Photos of tear gas and pepper spray canisters found at the scene indicate they were made by Safariland and Defense Technology.
CBP bought this tear gas through Aardvark, a major U.S. military and law enforcement supplier. Three contracts that CBP awarded to Aardvark during 2018-2019 for the supply of “chemical munitions” identify Safariland as the sub-contractor. These contracts are worth a combined $724,645, however, this is likely an undercount, since most such contracts do not specify the manufacturer. A purchase of $33,988 worth of tear gas in March 2018 was designated to U.S. Border Patrol San Diego, where the attacks on migrants occurred.
Safariland's direct sales to CBP amounted to more than $6.5 million between 2005-2017 and included unspecified "less lethal" munitions and bullets, launchers, batons, and riot gear. During the same time, Safariland sold directly to ICE equipment worth $1.7 million, including batons and riot gear. It is likely, however, that most Safariland equipment is sold to these agencies through suppliers such as Aardvark.
Safariland has also supplied state and local law enforcement and prison agencies in at least 42 states with less-lethal weapons and related equipment. As detailed in AFSC's Equipped for War report, 43 California law enforcement agencies that responded to our records requests have purchased Safariland/Defense Technology 40mm impact and powder barricade munitions, SWAT 40mm grenade launchers, riot control gear, and other equipment. This equipment was purchased either directly from Safariland or via law enforcement distributors such as Adamson Police Products, AARDVARK Tactical, and LC Action Police Supply.
Safariland's tear gas weapons have routinely been used by police against protestors and activists. For example, in 2014, police officers fired Defense Technology tear gas at anti-racism protestors in Ferguson, Missouri in the wake of the police killing of Michael Brown. Police also deployed Defense Technology tear gas and other crowd-control weapons against Standing Rock activists in 2016. Specifically developed — and now banned — for use during wartime, tear gas has become a ubiquitous less-lethal weapon, used by police departments throughout the U.S. to quell protests, demonstrations, and civil unrest.
Increased police use of tear gas against non-violent protestors led to a 2021 Congressional investigation, which included information requested from Safariland and two other major tear gas manufacturers. The investigation concluded that Safariland and other tear gas manufacturers know that their products are dangerous but have knowingly taken advantage of a lack of federal regulations to make a profit and retain "free rein to self-regulate." The company noted this investigation as a risk to its business, warning its investors that such inquiries "may damage [its] reputation and may also result in potential legislation designed to regulate the various products sold by [its] brands."
In addition to equipping law enforcement, Safariland has long provided the U.S. military with less-lethal weapons and equipment. Between 2008 and 2022, the company supplied the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) with $44.7 million worth of less-lethal munitions; smoke grenades, pepper spray, and other "riot control agents"; body armor; batons; handcuffs; and related weapons and equipment. Safariland's contracts with the DOD account for just over 88% of its overall federal contracts during this time.
Targeting Protestors in Palestine and Worldwide
Cadre Holdings sells its products to thousands of military and law enforcement agencies in over 100 countries. Its revenue from state agencies outside the U.S. amounted to $107.5 million in 2021, or 25% of its total revenue that year. This represents a 56% increase in Cadre's international sales from the previous year. The company plans to further expand its international sales "as foreign governments face increasingly complex safety challenges." Defense Technology, Cadre's weapon business, boasts that it equips "agencies addressing civil unrest worldwide," and that it "helped restore order in every major domestic civil disturbance in the last century."
The Israeli military regularly uses Defense Technology's tear gas and other weapons against Palestinian protestors in the occupied Palestinian territory. As documented by B'tselem, the Israeli military routinely uses the company's Triple-Chaser grenade, which consists of three tear gas canisters that separate on impact and disperse gas in a large area. Similarly, the Israeli police use Defense Technology's eXact iMpact 40mm sponge-tipped bullets against Palestinian protestors both in the occupied West Bank and within Israel's recognized international borders.
For example, the Israeli military and Border Police have extensively used tear gas and other crowd-control weapons to suppress Palestinian protests in Beita, a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank. The protests started in 2021 in response to the construction of a new Israeli illegal settlement named Evyatar on Palestinian land. Between May 2021 and February 2022, over 5,000 protesters were injured as a result of being hit by foam-tipped or rubber-coated bullets, or from tear gas inhalation, on top of the nine protesters killed and 180 injured by live ammunition. As reported by Who Profits, a contract that was found in Beita identifies the ammunition as Safariland's eXact iMpact bullets.
In the blockaded Gaza Strip, Israel used large amounts of tear gas and Safariland-made foam-tipped bullets to suppress the 2018-2019 mass demonstrations known as the Great March of Return. B'tselem found numerous cases of death and serious injury resulting from tear gas use. At the same time, the Israeli military also developed the world's first tear gas drone, to drop tear gas on protesters while they were far away from the border wall. While designed specifically for use in Gaza, the Israeli police used these drones in 2022 to drop tear gas on Palestinian protesters on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. It is unclear, however, which company produces the tear gas for these drones.
Safariland and Defense Technology products are imported to Israel by Israeli company HOS Technology R&D, which lists among its clients the Israeli military, police, prison service, as well as the Israeli military companies IAI and Rafael.
Beyond Palestine and the U.S., Safariland/Defense Technology tear gas has also been used against civilian protestors in Puerto Rico's 2019 "Telegramgate" protests; in the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey; in Egypt and Bahrain during the 2011 "Arab awakening"; in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2006; as well as in Canada, Guyana, Iraq, Peru, Tunisia, Venezuela, and Yemen, as documented by Forensic Architecture.
(Not) Divesting Defense Technology
Safariland and its CEO Warren Kanders, who is still the majority shareholder of Cadre Holdings, have been the target of multiple campaigns over their supplying tear gas to militaries and police departments in the U.S. and around the world.
In 2018, Brown University alumni launched a campaign demanding that the university cut its multiple ties with Kanders, himself a Brown graduate and donor. A key demand has been to remove Kanders from his position on the Advisory Council of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society. While the university has made no public comment on the issue, Kanders' name was removed from the Advisory Council's webpage at some point before January 2021.
Following Border Patrol's 2018 use of Safariland tear gas on families seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border (see above), another campaign targeted the Whitney Museum of American Art, where Kanders was vice-chair of the board. More than 100 museum employees sent a letter to the museum's leadership, calling on the board to consider Kanders' resignation. The campaign escalated in 2019, with dozens of art critics, academics, and others writing an open letter to museum leadership calling for Kanders' immediate removal. In April, hundreds of people protested the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Three months later, in July 2019, Kanders resigned from the museum's board, saying he did "not wish to play a role" in the museum's demise.
In June 2020, just days after its role in the suppression of Black Lives Matter protests drew public attention, Safariland announced its plans to divest both of its weapons subsidiaries, Defense Technology and Monadnock. Safariland's press release stated that "Defense Technology's current management team will become the new owners of the business," and that the sale would be completed in the third quarter of 2020.
A year later, Kanders made Safariland part of Cadre Holdings, whose website does not identify Defense Technology as one of its brands. However, Cadre Holdings listed Defense Technology both in its Initial Public Offering (IPO) registration form and in its subsequent annual report from March 2022. Cadre also owns Defense Technology's intellectual property (i.e., 36 patents for "crowd control" products) and reported using the two main tear gas chemicals, known as CS and CN, in the production of its "crowd control products."
While Safariland's website no longer features any mention of Defense Technology weapons, Safariland is still the official seller of Defense Technology products. As of May 2022, Defense Technology's website points prospective dealers to SafariXChange of Safariland. Safariland was awarded multiple contracts by the Federal Bureau of Prisons for Defense Technology products, including tear gas ("white smoke"), as recently as January 2022. In addition, public records requests for AFSC's Equipped for War report identified Safariland as selling Defense Technology weapons to California law enforcement agencies in January and February of 2021, and Monadnock batons in June and July of 2021.