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DHS SWAT team (courtesy

by Sgt. Patrick Hayes

After the police response to public unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, President Obama announced a White House review of the 1033 military surplus program for local and state law enforcement agencies. That’s the federal program that “provides surplus DoD military equipment to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, and to enhance officer safety.” So why is President Obama doing this? What’s his agenda? First . . .

politics, of course. As this website pointed out five days ago, the White House review is unlikely to offer anything other than a few rule changes and a new reporting system for police departments accepting loans – note: loans – of ex-military equipment. Eventually.

Second, the review is a good example of what people around here call “look at this baby!” By ordering a review of the 1033 program for local and state police the President draws attention away from a much bigger problem: federal law enforcement participation in the military bonanza.

There are more than 70 Federal law enforcement agencies. We don’t know which ones have benefitted from the transfer of military hardware, but it’s safe to say that all of the agencies with armed agents are in on the exchange program. We’re talking about the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Environmental Protection Agency, The Department of Education, The Department of Agriculture, AMTRAK, even The Library of Congress.

Many of these federal agencies have full SWAT or “Special Response Teams” (e.g., the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). All of these units are equipped with ex-military gear, including fully automatic weapons and “flash bang” grenades.

Whether they’ve got a SWAT team or not, all of these law enforcement personnel report to the President of the United States. The Commander-in-Chief has no reason to disarm or disband them. And every reason to keep them locked and loaded with as much firepower – machine guns, MRAPs, helicopters – as the government can muster. All at taxpayer’s expense.

Local and state law enforcement agencies are different. Mr. Obama does not control them. While many members of the public view local and state police as the enemy of liberty, especially after the mishandled Missouri riot control operation, it’s simply not true. The President knows better. He knows that local and state police are a block to his “Feds control everything” agenda.

This president has done everything in his power to nullify States rights. This review is just another attempt to pursue that policy.

The 1033 program transfer to local and state police should continue. It loans all manner of surplus gear to local and state agencies. While the offensive equipment gets all the press, the program also includes first aid kits, HAZMAT suits, power generators, snow removing equipment and more. Though inefficient (ED: what federal program isn’t?), 1033 still saves tens of millions of dollars a year in taxpayer money by reusing existing materials.

Not every police department rubs its hands with militarized glee at 1033. A county near mine just received 30 M16A1 rifles from federal surplus (the only rifle currently available under the program). They took them to a local gunsmith who removed to full auto parts. They are now semi-automatic patrol rifles. The program saved county taxpayers $45k. Same county received two HUMVEES – not MRAPS – for winter weather use. The program saved county taxpayers $60k.

Are Federal law enforcement agencies getting their rifles from the military? Of course not. They buy new rifles using our tax dollars. We couldn’t expect them to use 40-year-old rifles now could we? But if they want to, they can. As the equipment is on loan, ANY Federal agency can take any equipment it wants from any state or local agency at any time.

In theory, the President of the United State could order federal agencies to collect all 1033 equipment – every gun, vehicle, grenade and generator – with a single phone call.

Which brings us to simple point: if this president wants to make a change in policy you can be sure it doesn’t bode well for gun owners. When it comes to restricting local and state police participation under 1033, be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

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    • I wanted to post a youtube of a chicken running around with its head cut off, but I thought that would be in bad taste.

  1. Since when does the constitution allow the government to form miniature armies for various organizational branches?
    They should be calling the national guard for help, not running their own swat teams.

    • This is a really good point that occurred to me as well.

      I wonder if it is time for a lawsuit to disband or at least disarm all of those federal special response teams?

    • Those feds are there to make money, not to defend America. If ISIS arrived and pointed guns at them, they would run as fast as the Iraqis did. Leaving citizens to wipe out ISIS.

    • I thought molesting 6-year-old girls and undiapering 80-year-old grannies in line for domestic flights was what was supposed to keep ISIS away.

  2. Well, crap. I got caught looking at the red herring. It never occurred to me that Federal law enforcement wasn’t being scrutinized the same way as local law enforcement.

  3. ” A county near mine just received 30 M16A1 rifles from federal surplus”

    Man what a waste. It’d sure be nice if they’d just sell them to the public. I know that would never happen, but still.

    • Sell them to the public? Why should the public be forced to buy something for which they’ve already paid?

    • Actually it could. They could be sold to dealers who convert them. There are thousands of barely used or new condition M-14″s in Gov’t storage. Nobody really uses them except a few SOF guys so they just sit there.
      They are cutting up guns every year. 1033 found 40,000 M16A1’s in Virginia about to be demilled before they saved them.
      It would take a new law, but it could be done.

      • Personally, I’d be thrilled to pick up a CMP M16A1 even if it was turned to semi auto. Always liked the looks of the Vietnam era furniture.

  4. Well that puts all of this in an even more ominous light. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go clean my rifles again and buy more ammo.

  5. As said before obama controls the feds. Beside the EPA (for example) are always running up against heavily armed army’s while they inspect polluters. 🙂
    That was a joke.

  6. Good God, any machine that is so wide it requires 4 windshield wipers does not belong on U.S. streets.

  7. I still think it’s backdoor gun control. “Police have military weapons. Police have AR-15’s.” Just like that, the public thinks military weapons = AR-15.

    Then they’ll do even worse and ask why. “Why do police need these things? Because the citizens do! If you want to keep police from having these things, then we need to do something about the citizens.”

  8. Jeez you guys. That photo is homeland security protecting the homeland at the border, not preying on Americans. Oh wait….

  9. It’s not the tools, but the operators.

    Isn’t that what we always say? Well, it applies here just as equally. It’s nice to know that police departments have equipment ready to deal with many different situations, but my main concern is what they’ll actually use that equipment for. It’s the mendacity that some officers — and indeed whole departments — have towards their fellow citizens.

    Notice, though, that I didn’t use “civilians” in place of “citizens”.

    That’s because people need to get it through their heads that the police are in fact civilians as well. They’re not supposed to be “above” us or “more equal”, as we are wont to say here, than us either in the public eye or under the law. I would go so far as to say that they don’t have any more right to any of that equipment than we do.

    But, lo and behold, they already are.

  10. Once again, utilizing the confusion over the difference between semi and full auto.
    The narrative will go something like this, I wager:
    If M-16s are too dangerous for police to have, so dangerous that the federal government
    had to confiscate them from local law enforcement, then why should the average
    gun owner be allowed to have them ? Are they not unusual and dangerous ?

    • That’s because when John Doe kills children it’s a heinous act(and it is), but when the government does, it’s an unfortunate accident, and if they didn’t want to get killed they shouldn’t have been standing there.


  11. Never gave it any thought but, you have a very valid point.

    BUT, the worst police terrorist operations were Ruby Ridge and Waco . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . oh crap, they WERE federal operations.

    • Uh-huh. Both started with ATF murder and ended with FBI murders. And Ruby Ridge actually ended with a $2.5 million (IIRC) taxpayer money settlement with the targeted “criminal”, all very hush-hush, I never did read that in the media. And no feds were so much as fired. And neither was Obama’s fault.

  12. I love how some chummed fools commenting on this blog are confusing AR-15s with Bearcats and armored troop carriers.

  13. All I know is there some talk for some stupid Police Czar that would oversea all local PD in the USA creating more bureaucracy than is required. It is not the toys, it is attitude and procedures they employ.

  14. Thanks Sgt Hayes.

    I too dont have a problem with local cops getting some help on the budget by getting good gear- a 4WD for bad weather, blocked roads, and m4s modded to semi also makes sense. I understand the 1033 program requires accountability, so they are not just given out, and some review has already been done, to double check same.

    I’d rather have that gear being put to good use chasing bad guys, and enforcing the peace, here in the US, than given to corrupt shiites, like Maliki’s crony officers, who then ran and gave them up to the really crazy ISIS beheaders.

    BUT, the ROE for military, and training to use gear developed for their specific war fighting use, is very different than tactics for LEOs, including crowd control. You can look at how much time and effort it took the military to train MPs, and further, for USMC to adapt from expeditionary warfare to peacekeeping, and that was a sustained, focused, expensive full time effort over years, and I am sure a tough one to do well.

    Thats where the breakdown seems to be- training, and as you well know, thats very expensive- and training is perishable, so there has to be big holes in how to use the gear right, never mind tactics and command and control, etc.

    He11, we know its hard enough for most cops to get enough time and money and department bullets just to get to the range fpr basic weapons qualss. So the further that management pushes to get gear thats more appropriate for Fallujah, the further they put cops in danger of being trained poorly, or wrong, on that, by default for lack of time and money and expertise, for a very narrow mission used seldom –

    and that takes time away from traditional policing- which is a very tough job to do well, IMHO, that requires a much different approach than military type training, for 95% of the street cops time. So street cops are in a tough place- see the money and glory go to the operators who get to spend time in the gym between call outs, or go out in the patrol car every day and deal with nitwits and common street thugs? Not hard to imagine what is more fun, there, for your typical young guy just back from Iraq, or the wannabe who didnt have a chance to get there, but wants to prove him/herself.

    In the meantime, I hope management in various places is paying attention to lessons learned in Ferguson, and city councils are doing same. Unfortunately, we Americans have to see swings in the pendulum before the average LIV gets it, and even POTUS has to learn about it in the news. Thats part of TTAGs job here, and thanks RF, for being willing to do it. I may not agree always on how much or how well you say it, but its your BBQ, and I think you are onto something that needs to be discussed.

    To any real cops reading here- that is not an indictment of street cops, just of the sometimes not so wise management, which has its own challenges, dealing with politicians, another dirty job that someone has to do, to serve.

    Thanks for your service. Have a safe weekend, everyone.

  15. I figure if all these clowns want to play dress up army man, we should let them, however they should all be required to wear hot pink camo with matching armored trucks. Lets see if they can manage to look all manly in pink. Hello Kitty!

  16. When it comes to restricting local and state police participation under 1033, be careful what you wish for. Well, if the Feds at the Ministry of Love can get even more power that would just be double plus good.

  17. Feds can’t participate. See, this is what I mean by the term simpleton. You make blanket statements about LE agencies that in your own article you can’t back up and that are not true. Then all your 14 year old (or like minded) friends pat you on the back and say good job. What a joke this site is. Okay, some of the firearms information is really good, interesting and entertaining, but this garbage is just laughable.

  18. I can see our Dear Leader using this to his advantage. His thinking:
    (1) Local/state police in some jurisdictions will resist if the Feds really press hard so of course Dear Leader wants to disarm them.
    (2) If something awful happens later because local/state police are outgunned, people will demand “protection” and the Feds will offer Homeland Insecurity as the ultimate solution.

    I hope that makes it clear. This is an excuse for the Feds to weaken local/state police and strengthen an existing or new federal police force. From our Dear Leader’s perspective, what’s not to like?

    • Possible. And slightly probable given the latest in the series of FBI/DHS “Advisory Bulletins” that say there’s no credible threat of ISIS storming the US/Mexican border, so we need to panic right now. Just in time for Labor Day.

  19. Good article, Patrick. Thanks. It’s not surprising that the president’s investigation (AKA: dog-and-pony show) will focus on hardware: the real problem lies with personnel and training. The countless YouTube videos of SWAT teams making dynamic entries (no doubt produced as public records by very reluctant police departments) show a disturbing lack of professionalism. The reason this is happening is that the people doing the work aren’t well trained. But, even worse, YouTube shows far too many cops demonstrating the emotional maturity of 13 year olds. Police work has always tended to attract people who have authoritarian personality traits, low-self images, and other troublesome factors . Departments used to work hard at filtering these folks out because they were bad for the job. The last thing you want is a guy with repressed anger who thinks everybody gets the stuff he didn’t wearing a badge and carrying a gun. I suspect that, in recent years, political considerations have made this a lot more difficult. Combine this with a generation of applicants who apparently experience difficulty distinguishing their former military roles from their new police roles and you get what is now commonly being referred to a police militarization. It’s not the hardware so much as what cops are doing with it that’s the problem. The change that is needed must come from local police departments and, unfortunately, most appear to be headed in the opposite direction. I didn’t used to be afraid of the police. Now, I am.

  20. “I’m shocked, shocked over this police militarization scandal”
    “Excuse me Mr President,
    Your helmet sir”

  21. To keep in step with your stated goal to maintain journalistic integrity for this blog, RF, perhaps you should start separating your articles into news, commentary and op/ed. This is definitely an op/ed-commentary piece with a sprinkling of facts as seasoning. Hell, the vast majority of the articles are on this blog. Probably because it’s a blog, not an online news source.

    I don’t read TTAG to get my daily dose of news. I read it for the opinions stressed in the articles, and to get the writers’ unique take on the news. That’s what TTAG excels at more than most pro-gun blogs. When you do post excerpts from actual new reports, I always click the links to the entire news report so I can make my own informed opinions. Then I return here to read the writers’ opinion to see if I agree or not, and if there is something that might alter my opinion. Or not.

    But as a stone-cold news source? There a better websites for that.

    Now, as to this particular opinion piece strongly suggesting that Obama is hiding the federal agencies’ acquisition of militarized equipment, ya gotta give me proof. Because, frankly, I remember a generation-and-a-half ago when left-wingers were saying the same thing about Nixon and his cronies. I was skeptical then, and I’m skeptical now.

    • (1) “…perhaps you should start separating your articles into news, commentary and op/ed.”

      And perhaps, RF, you should continue leaving that procedure to your readers, instead of following the general media trend of pandering to the back side of the IQ bell curve.

      (2) “…as to this particular opinion piece strongly suggesting that Obama is hiding the federal agencies’ acquisition of militarized equipment, ya gotta give me proof.”

      How’s this for some highly suggestive evidence of the mindset of the Anointed One?
      “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”
      Speech by Barack Obama delivered Boulder, Colorado July 2, 2008.

      And if you want to see what this looks like, see any of the coverage of the heavily armed National PARK SERVICE “law enforcement officers” blocking off the WWII Memorial in Washington DC, keeping the incredibly dangerous 90-yr old WWII vets from visiting that OPEN SIDEWALK memorial during the last “gummint shutdown”. Funny how they had to spend a whole bunch of money on SWATters and barricades to shut down this memorial, when their excuse was “Congress cut our funding”. This was a classic show of force to intimidate the public, by a “civilian national security force that [Obama wants to be] just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the military.

  22. I have a dumb question:

    How did paying a gun smith to remove full-auto parts and replace them with semi parts from 30 guns save $45k? That’s $1500 per gun. Are we counting not buying new Colt rifles as a savings? I just don’t get the math.

    I don’t have a problem with police having select-fire weapons. I have a problem with them being denied to other civilians.

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