Close to 200 state and local police departments in the United States have been suspended for losing military-level equipment transferred to them by the Pentagon, a new investigation found.
According to the media outlet Fusion, its independent investigation into the Pentagon’s “1033 program,” which equips state and local police departments across the US with excess military equipment, turned up an alarming trend: Not only did many law enforcement agencies fail to comply with the program’s guidelines, they routinely lost dangerous weaponry.
Already, the investigation has found that police departments in Arizona, California, Mississippi, Missouri, Georgia, and others have lost or cannot account for various types of weapons. This list includes M14 and M16 assault rifles, .45-caliber pistols, shotguns, and even vehicles.
So far, 184 state and local departments have reportedly been suspended in a program that involves the participation of more than 8,000 agencies. Since 1990, the 1033 program has administered more than $4.3 billion worth of equipment and weapons.
In the wake of heavy police response to protests surrounding the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the topic of police militarization has emerged at the forefront of public debate in the US. Police employed heavily armored vehicles, sniper rifles, tear gas, and riot gear as they confronted demonstrators against excessive force, sparking widespread concern throughout the country, particularly over the Pentagon’s military equipment transfer program.
Although the Pentagon stated the program is meant to “enhance public safety and improve homeland security,” critics argue that the inability of police to keep track of their equipment adds another layer of doubt to the idea that security is being improved.
“The case for giving military weaponry to these small police departments was already thin in the beginning,” Tim Lynch of the CATO Institute’s project on criminal justice said to Fusion. “Now that we’re finding that there is insufficient accountability for tracking this equipment, then the case is beginning to fall apart.”
In at least two cases, Humvees were reported missing. In Georgia, the Humvee was reportedly sold somehow, only to be recovered later and moved to a different department. Another case in Arkansas involved a stolen Humvee that was not reported until a day later.
Firearms were routinely lost or misplaced. In Arizona alone, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department lost 11 or 12 weapons.
“[The program] is obviously very sloppy, and it’s another reason that Congress needs to revisit this promptly,” Lynch added. “We don’t know where these weapons are going, whether they are really lost, or whether there is corruption involved.”
As RT reported previously, questions over the Pentagon program have reached President Obama as well, as he recently ordered a review of the entire operation. The probe will determine whether or not police should actually be receiving the equipment they get, the way these weapons are being used, and whether officers are being trained properly.
Jackson Police Department: Missing M14 Meridian Police Department: Four missing M14s Calhoun County Police Department: Missing M14 Vaiden Police Department: A .45 cal pistol was sold at a gun exchange Philadephia Police Department: Two missing M-14s Columbus Police Department: Three missing M-14s Mississippi Department of Public Safety: Missing M14 Tupelo Police Department: One missing 12 gauge shotgun and two missing flyer helmets Source: Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration
Huntington Beach Police Department: Missing M16 Stockton Police Department: Two missing M-16 rifles Sutter County Sheriff’s Office: One missing M14, one Missing M15 Sources: Huntington Beach PD, Stickton PD, Sutter County Sheriff’s Office
Hancock County Sheriff’s Department: Two .45 cal pistols missing Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office: M-16 stolen during a burglary of an officer’s home Sparta Police Department: .45 cal pistol stolen during a burglary of an officer’s home in 2002. Another .45 caliber pistol went missing in January 2014. Department terminated from program.Tallapoosa Police Department: Unable to account for three .45 cal pistols issued to a now deceased officer. Lithonia Police Department: Missing M-14 rifle Hall County Sheriff’s Office: Missing M-14 rifle. Weapon was found in ten months later. Georgia Department of Corrections: Sold a military-owned Humvee. It was later recovered and transferred to another department. Source: Georgia Department of Public Safety
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department: “11 or 12” weapons missing. Mostly .45 caliber pistols, and one rifle. Source: Matthew Van Camp, Arizona state coordinator for the 1033 program
Lawrence County Sheriff Department: Missing M14 rifle, and lost night vision scope. Judsonia Police Department:Two 12-gauge shotguns missing Woodruff Police Department: Three 12-gauge shotguns missing Palestine Police Department: Failed to report a stolen Humvee within 24 hours. Humvee was recovered shortly after. Independence County Sheriff’s Department: Missing M16. Rifle was recovered shortly after. Source: Arkansas Department of Career Education