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Police Departments Losing Humvees And Military Weapons

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Annabelle Bamforth
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A Fusion investigation of the Pentagon’s “1033 Program” has uncovered a disturbing pattern of misplaced military-issued weaponry within local and state police agencies.

Program 1033 is formerly known as Program 1208; when Congress enacted the National Defense Authorization Act in 1990, section 1208 authorized the Secretary of Defense to transfer “to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition”. In 1996, Section 1208 was replaced by Section 1033.

A Pentagon spokeswoman told Fusion that “Congress’ intent with the program is to enhance public safety and improve homeland security by leveraging taxpayer investments in defense technology and equipment.”

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Fusion’s investigation discovered that 184 state and local police agencies have been suspended from Program 1033 because the agencies have lost track of the weapons they were given. The media outlet found that there is an outstanding pattern of missing M14 and M16 rifles throughout the United States. Missing pistols, shotguns and Humvees were also noted.

States including Mississippi, California, Georgia, Arizona and Arkansas have been found to be missing various weapons allocated by the program.

The Pentagon clarified that no police agencies were suspended from Program 1033 because of their usage of the weapons.

Equipment transferred from the military to state and local police departments is overseen by a state agency- the department of public safety, for example. A state coordinator, appointed by a governor, is responsible for watching over equipment inventory and ensuring cooperation with federal guidelines.

According to Fusion, “The decentralized structure of the program makes it difficult — even for the Pentagon — to keep tabs on the standing of participating police departments, or the weapons they’ve been issued. Officials at the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which runs the equipment-transfer program, were unable to provide specifics about why various police departments were suspended. And many state coordinators refused to speak to Fusion, or claimed they didn’t have the information requested.”

Willingness to speak about the suspensions varied between different police departments and state coordinators. The state coordinator in California claimed he was “not authorized” to speak about the agency. Huntington Beach, CA Police Lieutenant Mitchell O’Brien admitted to Fusion that the department was suspended last year due to a lost M16 rifle. “It was discovered during an internal audit,” he said. “An investigation was inconclusive as to how that occurred.”

According to Arizona state coordinator Matthew Van Camp, several weapons turned up missing in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. Van Camp was unsure of the exact number, but he said “I think it was 11 or 12.”

In Georgia, a police department that had been suspended after two warnings regarding separate cases of missing .45-caliber pistols was ultimately terminated from Program 1033. The Georgia Department of Corrections had sold a military Humvee; it was later found and brought to a different department.

Police departments in Mississippi are missing several M14 rifles and a .45-caliber pistol had been sold at a gun exchange.

Fusion conducted an additional investigation of the possibility of police selling and inappropriately transferring the equipment. Two indictments discovered by the outlet allege that weapons such as an M14 rifle were resold or transferred to third parties that were not authorized.

The White House has ordered a review of Program 1033, but Fusion’s own investigation has already shown troubling instances of nearly 200 police agencies failing to account for their military weapons and equipment. Despite officials being put in place to oversee the movement of the weapons and reviews conducted twice a year to ensure compliance, items still have gone missing.

“The case for giving military weaponry to these small police departments was already thin in the beginning,” said Tim Lynch, director of the CATO Institute’s project on criminal justice. “Now that we’re finding that there is insufficient accountability for tracking this equipment, then the case is beginning to fall apart.”

 

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