Pentagon Stops Helping Militarize Police for Now, Demands Papers, Please

Let’s see how law enforcement agencies feel when they’re the targets of a sweep instead of the source of them. The Associated Press reports the Defense Department is temporarily halting its program of giving surplus guns, helicopters, humvees and other military equipment to police agencies until they can adequately account for what they’ve already gotten in the $2.6 billion program:

The department's Defense Logistics Agency ordered state-appointed coordinators in 49 states to certify the whereabouts of that equipment that has already been distributed through the long-running arrangement overseen by the agency's Law Enforcement Support Office. The temporary halt on transferring weapons applies to all states, agency officials said Thursday. …

The military decided to conduct a "one-time, clean sweep" of all state inventories instead of reviewing them piecemeal, said Kenneth MacNevin, a spokesman for the federal agency. While some gear, including guns, has been stolen or otherwise gone missing over the years, MacNevin said the reporting requirements themselves aren't new and that the review wasn't prompted by anything specific.

Yeah, there’s no real specific reason they’ve decided to do a big sweep right now:

The Arizona Republic reported last month that the Pinal County Sheriff's Office has stockpiled millions of dollars' worth of equipment through the program, distributing some of the gear to non-police agencies, and intended to sell other property, which would violate the program's rules.

Oh, that. MacNevin did admit that a couple of news reports, as well as a series of public records requests by the Associated Press, did contribute to the decision to make law enforcement agencies inventory their wares. And it might not be easy:

Most of the state surplus program coordinators who have responded to records requests from the AP say they only keep paper records, and the few states that keep electronic records only recently made the switch from paper.

The Illinois Department of Central Management Services, for instance, said it would take its staff members at least 500 hours merely to review the records requested by the AP.

In May, the military warned Florida that it had not adequately accounted for its inventory of hand-me-downs and warned that the program would be suspended in that state later in June if they didn’t fix the problem.

More from Reason on police militarization.

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  • Tim||

    How many M-14's and M-16's etc will come up gone? Hundreds? Thousands?

  • R C Dean||

    I'm guessing very few, because I assume that the local po-po will lie about the misappropriation of equipment.

  • ||

    Now, in addition to punching Pauli Krugnuts, I wanna punch those no-skill, sub-moronic cyborg assclowns in the picture above.

  • ||

    Calm down Kristen....you cant punch every asshole in the world, your arms will be worn down to nubs in no time. There are just too many.
    Go for it with Krugnuts though...please.

  • ||

    I'm way too misanthropic to not want to punch a good chunk of human society

  • Pi Guy||

    Feel free to borrow my fists and arms at any time - if I'm not using them, that is.

  • Loki||

    That's one of the main reasons why I took martial arts several years ago. There's so many assholes that need a good solid punch and/or kick to the head.

  • ||

    Oh, please please please let this be a bloodbath of corruption and illegal arms trade. And the thing is, it probably will. The Pentagon has very specific rules for what they can do with that stuff and you know the cops are doing much more with it. At the very least, maybe it will stop the Pentagon helping police departments militarize.

  • fried wylie||

    The Pentagon has very specific rules for what they can do with that stuff and you know the cops are doing much more with it. At the very least, maybe it will stop the Pentagon helping police departments militarize.

    How amusing.

    Obviously they'll just change the "very specific rules" to fit the cops' needs. Ahoy, Militarization full speed ahead!

  • tarran||

    I don't know about that.

    I've caught several hints that the active duty army types view the police as scum - from their interactions with cops who are military reservists.

    I could be wrong and would love to hear from people who interact more with active duty army types as to whether that's the case.

  • RBS||

    How much of that disdain disappears once the active duty types leave the army and join the local police force?

  • ant1sthenes||

    Active duty army types won't be running this, though, right? Just political army bureaucrats.

  • ||

    The big bad Feds don't like it when you dick them around after they give you free stuff. I wouldn't be surprised to see some action on this.

  • ||

    For being the resident cynic you are far to optimistic about this. -1000

  • ||

    The Pentagon isn't law enforcement, so there is no "professional courtesy" to go on here. In fact, the military tends to think of itself as "better" than the cops, so it's entirely possible they may do something.

    Any optimism comes mostly from the fact that they've decided to do a complete, nationwide review. That's pretty amazing, and a lot of police departments are probably shitting their pants right now. If they wanted to suppress this, they'd do nothing or just investigate the one place that got caught.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I thought police work was just a retirement system for retired military?

  • Pi Guy||

    "...bloodbath of corruption and illegal arms trade..."

    Just imagine if a cop is killed by an army supplus gun, Fast and Furious-style...

  • Agammamon||

    Nothing will happen outside of an embarassing report being released and then forgotten.

    Excuses will be made that the use and sale regulations were not completely clear and unambiguous so "mistakes" will be forgiven.

    Short of finding direct, unrefutable evidence of criminal wrongdoing the gov won't bother to prosecute anyone. Worst they'll get is a nasty letter and a bad mark in their agency's permanent file.

    I mean look at the DOD - this is an agency known for wasteful spending, leaving shit behind after ops because its easier to buy new stuff rather than ship your gear back.

  • R C Dean||

    From what I understand, the military makes a fairly big deal about the difference between military operations and law enforcement. Culturally, they tend to be opposed to mixing the two.

    So I wouldn't be surprised if this program has a lot of opponents at the Pentagon.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Posse comeatmebrous.

  • Loki||

    the Defense Department is temporarily halting its program of giving surplus guns, helicopters, humvees and other military equipment to police agencies until they can adequately account for what they’ve already gotten in the $2.6 billion program

    Not, you know, because the militarization of police is wrong, they just want to account for what they've already sold them before selling them more.

  • The Hammer||

    And once the local police departments report that accurate accounting is officially "too hard," they will resume sales as normal.

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