Militarization of police more widespread than previously thought, especially in small towns

By End the Lie

(Image credit: verifex/Flickr)

(Image credit: verifex/Flickr)

While the trend of police forces becoming increasingly militarized across the United States, thanks in large part to programs like the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, is pretty much common knowledge at this point, it actually goes much further than most realize.

Indeed, as a new detailed Associated Press report shows, it is not only Georgia – which acquired a whopping $200 million worth of military-grade weapons and vehicles – where rural areas are getting equipment they clearly don’t need.

Yet the many cities and towns also acquire equipment through federal grant funds, not just the 1033 Program, which can allow agencies to acquire everything from deep fryers to military robots.

The AP investigation found that a “disproportionate share of the $4.2 billion worth of property distributed since 1990 has been obtained by police departments and sheriff’s offices in rural areas with few officers and little crime.”

Some of the equipment is quite obviously not needed and will not be used by the departments. One of the examples is, oddly enough, from Georgia, where the police department in the tiny farming community of Morven, Georgia has acquired “three boats, scuba gear, rescue rafts and a couple of dozen life preservers.”

Now, you might be thinking that this is justified, because they’re probably located near a large body of water. In reality, the 1.7-square-mile, 700-resident town’s deepest body of water is an ankle-deep creek.

Morven Police Chief Lynwood Yates didn’t stop there. He also acquired a decontamination machine originally valued at $200,000, though it is missing most of its parts and would require $100,000 worth of repairs.

Yates also acquired an unknown number of bayonets which have yet to make it out of his storage facility.

“That was one of those things in the old days you got it because you thought it was cool,” Yates said, referring to his shipment of bayonets. “Then, after you get it, you’re like, ‘What the hell am I going to do with this?’”

I’m sure many readers are asking the same question.

Morven has clearly enjoyed the benefits of the Department of Defense program, acquiring some $4 million worth of goods over the past ten years or so. Yet Yates acknowledged that his town sees little crime and that the police spend most of their time on traffic enforcement.

In the small town of Rising Star, Texas, population 835, the police chief acquired over $3.2 million worth of goods with a mere 14 months. The only full-time officer on the entire force was the police chief.

Some of the equipment the police chief go this hands on before being fired over an unrelated issue earlier this year included three deep-fat fryers, two meat slicers, a pool table, playground equipment, nine televisions, 11 computers, 25 sleeping bags and 22 large space heaters worth $55,000 when new.

Rising Star was suspended from the program in March after federal officials unsurprisingly discovered that many items, including 12 pairs of binoculars, had gone missing from police facilities.

Why this program is distributing deep-fat fryers, meat slicers, pool tables and playground equipment is still not clear.

Other “general property items” that agencies can acquire include, “bookcases, hedge trimmers, telescopes, brassieres, golf carts [and] coffee makers.”

In the case of Morven, Yates clearly has a lot of imagination. Despite the fact that the town, by his own admission, sees little in terms of crime, Yates said he plans to use the aquatic equipment to form a dive team.

Yates claims that the dive team is needed because his county doesn’t have one.

Major Joe Wheeler, of the Brooks County Sherriff’s Department, said that they don’t need a dive team and if they did, they’d create one. Instead, they just call the adjacent Lowndes County for water rescues and the George Department of Natural Resources if a corpse needs to be retrieved from a body of water.

He also said he has formed a SWAT team armed with surplus military rifles, an armored personnel carrier and a Humvee.

He added that he wants the decontamination machine, despite the costs associated with fixing it, in case he has to respond to a “nuclear, chemical, biological” incident.

Yates said that he could “take my guys and the training they have, the equipment we have, and we could shut this town down” and “completely control everything.”

Why he would want to do that, especially when he admits, “Even my worst drug dealer here, if I was broke down on the side of the road, they would stop and help,” is unclear.

“They’ve got a bunch of damn junk is what it looks like to me,” said Gary Randall, manager of the only grocery store in Morven.

“This is a little, itty bitty town. His mentality is, ‘If I don’t get it, someone else will,’” Randall said, adding that the stockpiling seems like “big-time” overkill.

Still, Yates claims that he only requests equipment he needs, though he acknowledges that the bayonets may not have been all that necessary.

The equipment received isn’t necessarily what is requested in some cases.

Yates asked for a handheld laser range finder for a gun, instead, he received a range finder that used to be mounted on the tank-busting A-10 Warthog jet worth some $28,000.

The most troubling part of their investigation is that the use of the 1033 Program is increasing like never before.

A record $546 million worth of military property was transferred to agencies in fiscal year 2012 alone.

While agencies who receive the equipment aren’t supposed to sell or lease the equipment without permission or stockpile it, some agencies have been busted for doing just that.

Some have been found to be selling property for a profit, failing to notify officials about stolen or lost weapons or transferring weapons without permission.

The problem was apparently o serious that the Defense Logistics Agency’s “Law Enforcement Support Office suspended the transfer of firearms to police forces more than a year ago because of concerns that state coordinators weren’t keeping adequate inventory records,” according to the AP.

Critics say it’s also creating a much larger problem.

“The harm for me is that it further militarizes American law enforcement,” said Norm Stamper, a retired Seattle police chief.

“We make a serious mistake, I’m convinced, in equipping domestic law enforcement, particularly in smaller, rural communities, with this much military equipment,” Stamper said.

While Navy Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek, the director of the Defense Logistics Agency, claimed that his agency’s support office and state coordinators conduct a “sanity check” on requests, there are some clearly insane requests.

The Oxford, Alabama police department, for example, has received over $10.4 million worth of equipment, including an infrared surveillance system worth $1.5 million for a helicopter it doesn’t even own.

The police chief said they tried to get night-vision goggles for their SWAT team, but instead received the $1.5 million surveillance apparatus it can’t use.

The oversight of the program is, by all metrics, atrocious.

While the Department of Defense is required to conduct reviews of state programs every two years, Mississippi’s program went six years without being reviewed.

In March 2012, federal reviewers found that the Mississippi Office of Surplus Property, which coordinates the state’s use of the 1033 Program, acquired over $8 million in property. The problem is that the agency is not a law enforcement organization and is thus should not be participating in the program.

However, the AP reports that staffing at the federal office tasked with direct supervision of the program has increased by 50 percent to 18 employees. They also now have a new computer system aimed at improving the tracking of inventory.

A spokeswoman for the office also said that they have new rules which “limit distribution of most items to one per law enforcement officer, except for consumables like clothing and batteries.”

One can only hope that the new efforts will stop towns like Rising Star and Morven from going hog-wild with the program.

Still, the problem of federal grant money funding similar programs will remain.

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13 Responses to Militarization of police more widespread than previously thought, especially in small towns

  1. teresa August 2, 2013 at 5:37 AM

    I thought I could waste money. THIS IS INCREDIBLE Not only that WHY do we need our Police Force riding around in tanks, wearing armored gear, helmets, WHY again is this necessary?

    Reply
  2. Nora August 2, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    Yates is clearly a character, who might benefit from therapy for his “Hoarding Disorder”. All those bayonets he got would make just dandy marshmallow roasting sticks. These are not troubling items since they pose little threat to the people who might face them in the hands of law enforcement, but those ARMORED VEHICLES are an entirely different matter, as are the suits of body armor and riot gear we see popping up all over America. New Hampshire just got an armored tank, supposedly because all the “free staters” pose some sort of threat. What I really want to know is, what are they feeding the police to make them all act like they are on a ‘roid rage? They’re shooting unarmed people for God’s sake! Look at the cop in Texas who is in jail for knocking a female student’s teeth out for simply walking near his patrol car.
    Strange times, folks.

    Reply
  3. international reader August 22, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    Wow it looks like government is making your police into nut cases, your country indeed is becoming militarized.

    Reply
  4. columjaddica October 12, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    The most important thing they received from the US Military was a generation of returning troops, trained in ruthless anti-insurgency tactics, addled with PTSD, with skills that don’t match up to anything in civilian life but are useful if you want to militarize first responders.

    The Bush admin trained this generation and the Obama admin released them upon us. People who still believe that first responders or the military will stand up for the people if the SHTF need to open their eyes. They will do whatever they are told, with confidence they are doing the right thing, thanks to a media that runs hoax story after hoax story. If collapse happens their families will be taken care of and the official story will allow them to continue believing they are doing the right thing.

    Reply
  5. DudeMan October 22, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Chillax, folks. This is actually a good thing. I think we’re being shortsighted here, with the fear of “militarized local authorities.” They’re the good guys. It’s the FEDs you need to worry about, and the better your local authorities are armed and trained, the better the likelihood of a successful uprising against the Shadow- puppet-Pentagon will be. The assertion that this is disproportionately happening in rural areas is comforting as well. The cops in these areas are going to be either more prone to be sympathetic to rebels, or easy targets for a well prepared militia when the hammer eventually falls. And then that stock pile belongs to the people. All these returning veterans are a good thing too. They are the good guys as well and they tend to have a very sober perspective on who they stand for, even when they’re plenty self-medicated. The reports of the government bungling inventory is good news for those that oppose the FEDs as well. The more incompetent they are, the better our chances to put them back under our thumb will be.
    I know a lot of you still think you can vote your way out of what’s coming, and that’s cool. I get it. I just can’t imagine an honest candidate ever winning a modern election anymore. I think our elections are more like All-Star-Wrestling than a functional democracy.
    The most dangerous thing that is happening right now is the propaganda, and how the people seem to just gobble it up. It’s the sold out “journalists” (more like muppets than reporters) and the relationship the government has with Hollywood…and the actual muppets. How they are training your children to think (and have been for decades now, at least) through Sesame Street and other kiddie shows ( and schools, and youth organizations, and text books, and music, and fashion, and even the DEA) would make you mad if you were informed and aware. But, don’t take my word for it. I know folks don’t like my tin-foil hat. Just watch and see. And, don’t worry about “Sheriff Hicks.” He’s on our side.

    Reply
  6. DudeMan October 22, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    @columjaddica
    “People who still believe that first responders or the military will stand up for the people if the SHTF need to open their eyes. They will do whatever they are told, with confidence they are doing the right thing, thanks to a media that runs hoax story after hoax story. If collapse happens their families will be taken care of and the official story will allow them to continue believing they are doing the right thing.”
    I agree somewhat with this statement. But, I think we may also agree that our government is typically two faced and rarely keeps it’s promises. When this becomes evident to Law enforcement who where counting on the government to do what they said, and they don’t (and they won’t, except for in their pet states) These folks aren’t likely to put up much of a fight against armed insurgent patriots from their own neighborhoods. The cops described in this article sound like soft targets to me. Don’t presume we will loose a civil war so soon. We aren’t anywhere near that yet anyway. The Taliban has been holding there own against the US pretty well, and they are not nearly as sophisticated as Americans. It’s largely that guerrilla warfare is extremely difficult and rebel sympathizers are prolific. It would be even more so if this was happening on American soil. And, we don’t need the CIA to teach us how to operate a rocket launcher or automatic weapons or even how to fly F-18s. We already know. They already train us by the tens of thousands in these endless Arab wars.
    Go talk to a vet. I bet there’s one close to you right now. Ask him who he stands for. He’ll be glad to tell you. It’s that baby you hold in your arms. It’s that wife you hold at night. It’s your right to live free from tyranny. And if there aren’t enough good people left in this country to defend it from the wicked ways of Washington, then to Hell with it anyway. Good riddance. It will destroy itself eventually. Some call that evolution or natural selection. I call it the hand of God.

    Reply
  7. Lucas November 6, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    Hey, I really enjoy the site and appreciate all the hard work you guys are doing, but I was just wondering if you could tell me what happened to your “revealing quotes” section. I found it very interesting, and it aided me in my research. If you could help me out, that would be great.

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    Reply
  8. Pingback: Militarization of police more widespread than previously thought, especially in small towns | Truth Progress

  9. Hugh Gladstone November 18, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    If it actually happens and the Feds takes our guns, declare Martial Law and confine us to a concentration camp, then it will be very important that our local police understand the issues and are not fooled by the propaganda.

    Democide may be what they have planned, but that can’t happen to an informed population that will resist. Rural police, who now possess weapons of mass destruction, are not likely to go along with the NWO or anything that is against innocent people and will see through the fraud and be on the side of the people.

    Let’s hope that these weapons are used to protect us from our Federal Government and not used against us, and that our local police remain OUR local police.

    Reply
  10. Hugh Gladstone November 18, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    If it actually happens and the Feds takes our guns, declare Martial Law and confine us to a concentration camp, then it will be very important that our local police understand the issues and are not fooled by the propaganda.

    Democide may be what they have planned, but that can’t happen to an informed population that will resist. Rural police, who now possess weapons of mass destruction, are not likely to go along with the NWO or anything that is against innocent people and will see through the fraud and be on the side of the people.

    Let’s hope that these weapons are used to protect us from our Federal Government and not used against us, and that our local police remain OUR local police.

    Reply
  11. Hugh Gladstone November 18, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    If it actually happens and the Feds takes our guns, declare Martial Law and confine us to a concentration camp, then it will be very important that our local police understand the issues and are not fooled by the propaganda.

    Democide may be what they have planned, but that can’t happen to an informed population that will resist. Rural police, who now possess weapons of mass destruction, are not likely to go along with the NWO or anything that is against innocent people and will see through the fraud and be on the side of the people.

    Let’s hope that these weapons are used to protect us from our Federal Government and not used against us, and that our local police remain OUR local police.

    Reply
  12. Paul December 11, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    awesome….one of these days I’ll move to a small town, population 327 people, 210 miles from the nearest interstate, the only building of any size being the grain silo or abandoned mine, and I’ll expect the police department to have a couple F-15s equipped with bunker-busters and missiles. If I’m gonna get busted, make it a show, jets roaring overhead, missiles lighting up the landscape, etc. And that’s just for jaywalking.

    Reply
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