Federal Bureaucracy Holding Up Police De-Militarization

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Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Or, indeed, bureaucracy. Case in point: the stymied post-Ferguson move to ditch MRAPs, “tanks,” full-auto rifles and other Pentagon provided kit. First, the good news [via motherjones.com]: “Law enforcement agencies across the country have quietly returned more than 6,000 unwanted or unusable items to the Pentagon in the last 10 years, according to Defense Department data provided to Mother Jones by a spokeswoman for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has spearheaded a Senate investigation of the Pentagon program that is arming local police.” What was a trickle is becoming a rush. And no wonder. While the ex-mil toys cost pennies, the upkeep is not insignificant – especially for small town cop shops. Now the bad news . . .

Some agencies have found the process of getting rid of unwanted military gear next to impossible. Agencies can’t return or trade equipment without Defense Department approval, and because the Pentagon technically still owns the equipment, they can’t sell it.

According to interviews with state officials running point between the Pentagon and police, the Defense Department prefers to leave equipment in circulation whenever possible. “It’s a low-cost storage method for them,” says Robb Davis, the mayor pro tem of Davis. His town is trying to shake its MRAP. “They’re dumping these vehicles on us and saying, ‘Hey, these are still ours, but you have to maintain them for us.'”

A more malevolent read of the “no returns” policy: the feds are leaving “loaned” equipment in the hinterland so they can access the mil-spec stuff to quell civil insurrection. But again, it sounds more like your basic government SNAFU.

A Defense Logistics Agency spokeswoman says that law enforcement agencies are free to return equipment as long as they complete the right paperwork. She adds that certain pieces of equipment, such as night vision goggles, require extra certification to return. As examples of what might cause the Defense Department to reject a return, she lists only two: incorrect paperwork, and lack of that extra certification.

In reality, however, police departments may find the returns process slow, mystifying, or nonfunctional. Online law enforcement message boards brim with complaints that the Pentagon refuses to take back unwanted guns and vehicles—like this one, about a pair of M14 rifles that have survived attempts by two sheriffs to get rid of them.

“The federal government is just not interested in getting this stuff back,” says Davis Trimmer, a lieutenant with the Hillsborough, North Carolina, police department.Trimmer has twice requested permission to return three M14 rifles that are too heavy for practical use. But the North Carolina point person for the Pentagon insists that Hillsborough can’t get rid of the firearms until another police department volunteers to take them. Police in Woodfin, North Carolina, are facing the same problem as they try to return the town’s grenade launcher.

TTAG tipster Tom S. reckons a fire sale is the answer. Anyone fancy a slightly used grenade launcher or an M4?

More likely the Pentagon will figure out a way to take receipt of the unwanted full-auto rifles, MRAPs and other ex-mil gear, and park it all in a gigantic warehouse in Roswell, New Mexico (a few aisles over from the Ark of the Covenant). Leaving the central question unanswered: who’s going to disarm the USDA? I really fancy a sub-machine gun, even if it is .40-caliber. But please don’t ascribe that desire to malice – if you know what I mean.

comments

  1. avatar PeterC says:

    Why can’t the local PDs just “lose” the equipment? The feds do.

    1. avatar IdahoPete says:

      Yeah, or sell them to the Mexican drug cartels – just like the “BATFE and Really Big Fires.”

      1. avatar Mediocrates says:

        or turn them over to ISIS operatives already inside the country, just like Iraq…

    2. avatar Sian says:

      one of ours “lost” a government loan helicopter once.

    3. avatar bobmcd says:

      We have Tragic Boating Accidents, why can’t they?

    4. avatar notalima says:

      Or just deregulate some of it and allow people to buy them. More money influx, reduces deficit (which of course would never happen since they’d just see more money and spend 150% of it), police are not saddled with those terrible M16s, M4s, and big thirsty MRAPs (I’ll take one for the ‘cost’ the PD has to pay).

    5. avatar JasonM says:

      Just leave the keys in the MRAP in the bad section of town. Or park it next to a cliff without putting the parking brake on.

      What’s the worst that could happen? Would the feds refuse to give them more expensive equipment the locals don’t want?

  2. avatar jwm says:

    If you’ve never worked for the feds(I have) you would find it impossible to believe just how screwed up they are. No way, no how is my fed.gov capable of running a conspiracy no matter how much Alex Jones wishes it so.

    As for staging an mrap here or there for quelling future uprisings? Total bullshit. Ever see a military convoy? We lined the roads for miles. You think an mrap that’s been rotting behind the snowplows in Podunk are going to contribute anything to the equation. Get real.

    Best thing to do with your military giveaways that you don’t want anymore? Encase them in concrete and bury them. The fed.gov will never know.

  3. avatar Scrubula says:

    Wait, is this forced leasing? No way that would survive a supreme court case! One of the sheriffs forced to keep the M14s should take it to court…

    1. avatar bobmcd says:

      A mechanical near-equivalent of the Third Amendment? Is parking an MRAP similar to quartering troops?

      1. avatar Glenn says:

        My thoughts exactly.

        King George left much of his army in the colonies after, I believe, the French-Indian War, because it would have been too expensive to bring all of it back to Britain.

        So the standing army had to be supported by the colonies.

        Seems, minimally, to fit the legislative intent of the Third Amendment.

  4. avatar dlj95118 says:

    So what’s to stop a police department from loading up their MRAP with all the unwanted gear, driving said MRAP to the nearest military facility, park it outside the gate, leave the keys inside, and walk away?

    Maybe with a note that said “thanks, but no thanks.”

    1. avatar Tmmy! says:

      “Thanks but no TANKS”

      Fixed it for you.

      1. avatar dlj95118 says:

        *8)

  5. avatar Shire-man says:

    “They’re dumping these vehicles on us and saying, ‘Hey, these are still ours, but you have to maintain them for us.’”

    No, no, no. Don’t think about it. Just know they’re super awesome and really cool and loaded with ooh-rah bull$%^& to impress the eight year old boys.

  6. avatar Another Robert says:

    Can’t say I feel a whole lot of sympathy for the High Sheriff of Onehorse County. He had to ask for the damn things to start with when he knew damn well they were white elephants.

    1. avatar Alan Longnecker says:

      That’s racist.

      Oh, and it’s Bush’s fault.

  7. avatar Michael Nieto says:

    Are the feds barred from surplusing this stuff cause that seems the most logical solution here and if police departments want it they can still buy it I would love a surplused m4 even without the full auto trigger

  8. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    Well of course, the feds really do not want the police de-militarized.

  9. avatar pwrserge says:

    I think it’s time that we start distributing unwanted M16s, M14s and M4s through CMP… Who’s with me? I’ll be more than happy to provide a home for one of each.

    1. avatar Weston says:

      +1 I’d provide a home for as many as I could.

    2. avatar B says:

      I certainly would. I’d hate to see an M14 develop some kind of feeding disorder because someone called it too fat for ops.

    3. avatar Toby in KS says:

      In my opinion every person who has completed a military tour should be able to supply a DD214 that records an honorable discharge, and receive one free M16, and additional M16s at a steeply reduced price.

      I think we earned at least one of those rifles.

  10. avatar Sergio in NC says:

    Watch what you wish for, you just might get it AND can’t get rid of it!

  11. avatar Hannibal says:

    I remember bringing this up sometime last year… but it’s been happening for quite awhile. Not such a nefarious conspiracy, but something I bet most departments didn’t think about when they had ‘free stuff!’ in their eyes.

  12. Time for some more police boating accidents.

  13. avatar mk10108 says:

    The simplest solution is to return property to local National Guard. They have storage and can offer custody transfer and can liaison with DOD.

    1. avatar ShaunL. says:

      I also have a large backyard but cannot offer custody transfers…. For those who hate paperwork. I have a cutting torch and steel prices are decent.

  14. avatar Grindstone says:

    It’s not like the DOD just drove up and dumped the stuff on them. The local popos had to REQUEST it first.

  15. avatar Taylor TX says:

    “a pair of M14 rifles that have survived attempts by two sheriffs to get rid of them.”

    So youre telling me theres not a couple extra spots on the rack in the armory? Im sure I could make room…

    1. avatar Another Robert says:

      Just what I was thinking. If they are “too heavy” then don’t carry ’em. Maybe they are afraid if they leave one “locked up” at the station house it might embarrassingly “walk off”.

  16. avatar Shire-man says:

    Great idea: they can take a play from the statists and grabbers and turn their MRAPs into playground equipment. Park them in a field or lot, blast them with bedliner or something and let the kiddies crawl all over them.

    Put out some infrared cameras and you’ll catch the po-po’s sitting in the drivers seat late at night making vroom! vroom! noises.

  17. avatar NC-joe says:

    Have a local buy back and the sheriff can turn in the M14s, scrap them and send the DOD 2 $20.00 Walmart gift cards

  18. avatar Ahil925 says:

    Kinda off topic, but other than anti-2a sentiments and the cost of having to have a person do it what’s stopping the DOD from pulling the uppers off of M4s and M16s and just selling those to the general public? Or parting out everything but the lower receiver and trigger pack?

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      No, that would make sense…

      We’ll have none of that here!

  19. avatar Roscoe says:

    “In reality, however, police departments may find the returns process slow, mystifying, or nonfunctional.”

    Hardly uncommon, very many DoD processes are slow, mystifying, or nonfunctional, or all three. Op Sec, and Job Sec.

  20. avatar Ralph says:

    Give all that stuff to the Secret Service. The SS really knows how to protect our valuable assets.

  21. avatar Alan Longnecker says:

    Repeal NAFTA, er, I mean NFA (but repealing NAFTA is probably a good idea as well), and sell that stuff to We The People.

  22. avatar Wood says:

    “Trimmer has twice requested permission to return three M14 rifles that are too heavy for practical use.”

    What? You’re kidding me, right?

  23. avatar Reloader2 says:

    Just transfer them to the school district.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      I shit you not, this is in today’s paper :

      Pinellas schools returning M-16 assault rifles

      “The Pinellas County schools police department, which last month defended the purchase of 28 M-16s for its officers, is returning the assault rifles to a federal government surplus program.”

      http://www.tampabay.com/news/education/k12/pinellas-schools-return-m-16-assault-rifles/2200245

  24. avatar Excedrine says:

    I’ll take some of that off your hands.

  25. avatar Anon says:

    Not surprising. Think Secret Service protection of the President, we’ve bombed and killed our allies of the Free Syrian Army, Katrina, Storm Sandy, etc.
    Congress is to blame (partially). A congressman asks a question in committee and the entire agency changes it’s protocol, more paperwork, etcetera.
    I believe no federal statistics.
    Think unemployment. If you’re out of benefits or stopped looking for a job you are no longer unemployed. That’s congressional and political pressure to keep the numbers low.
    THINK 1984, doublespeak, we’re there.

  26. avatar Sean says:

    I just love knee jerk reactions, not. Wait til ISIS really gets things rolling in this country and everyone will be screaming “why aren’t the police stopping them!?”

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