Two-Person Police Department's Million Dollar Military Gear Grab Ends In Arrest Of Police Chief

from the Thetford-Township:-where-accountability-goes-to-die dept

A tiny unincorporated town in Michigan continues to draw national heat, thanks to the police department’s apparent abuse of the Defense Department’s 1033 program. This program allows law enforcement agencies to obtain military surplus — which can include armored vehicles, aircraft, and weapons — for next to nothing through its Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO).

This program has contributed greatly to the militarization of US police forces, allowing officers to dress up like soldiers while waging the War at Home on the constituents they supposedly serve. What happened in Thetford, however, wasn’t a sudden ramping up of military gear/tactics. Instead, the Thetford PD — which boasts two officers — simply took the 1033 program for an extended ride. Chief Robert Kenny managed to obtain 950 items through the 1033 program, valued at over $1.1 million… at least according to his own, very conservative estimate.

Obviously, a two-person police force had no use for much of this equipment, much less the room to store it. So, vehicles and other items ended up on land owned by residents. After the town started asking questions, it quickly became clear the chief didn’t know where all this acquired property was actually located.

Things went from bad to worse to farcical in a hurry. Town residents began dumping PD equipment previously stored on their property in the city hall parking lots. Town meetings were called. Accusations (and the occasional chair) were hurled and recalls were threatened. A nearby sheriff’s office was called in to investigate and the Thetford PD’s building was raided for 1033 records. Along the way, an envelope stuffed with cash was discovered among the PD’s many, many stashes of 1033 goods. Chief Kenny said the money it contained came from the sale of equipment for scrap metal, but otherwise couldn’t explain why it was located in a pile of stuff, rather than in a bank account.

Explanations will be forthcoming. The Genessee County Sheriff’s Department seems to have its investigation of the Thetford PD almost wrapped up.

Thetford Township Police Chief Robert Kenny was arrested this week in connection with an investigation into surplus military equipment his department received.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell scheduled a press conference for Thursday morning to discuss “the arrest and charges” Kenny is facing.

Court records show Kenny is charged with embezzlement and obstruction of justice dating back to 2012.

Here’s a link to the court records [PDF]. The embezzlement charge apparently stems from Kenny selling 1033 goods for scrap and depositing the payments into his personal account. The obstruction of justice charge would be everything Kenny did to cover up the embezzlement. Handily, the origin of both charges is explained in a single anecdote.

[Sheriff] Pickell said Kenny took several heavy-duty metal storage containers obtained through the support program to a Vienna Township scrapyard in 2012 and 2013.

Kenny allegedly received more than $5,000 in three different checks and deposited the money in his own account or took it in cash, Pickell said.

“Those three checks should have been placed in the Thetford Township banking account, not in Chief Kenny’s personal account,” Pickell said.

Kenny then gathered other Thetford Township officers and a journalist to go search a storage container at Dodge and Saginaw roads.

While moving the items, Kenny found an envelope containing cash with “LESO” written on it inside a container holding sleeping bags, Pickell said.

“Chief Kenny assembled what I believe to be unsuspecting witnesses to vindicate himself,” Pickell said.

There was almost $4,800 in cash in the envelope that Kenny found, according to Pickell.

Now that the investigation has concluded, there’s a far more accurate total for Chief Kenny’s 1033 haul. Keep in mind, the Defense Department’s LESO continued to approve requests for this 2-person police department, so it bears some responsibility for this debacle.

[Sheriff] Pickell said Kenny received almost 4,000 items that had a retail value of more than $2.7 million since 2012. Items included parachutes, mine-detecting devices, excavators, hydroseeders and other equipment.

The charges are worth about a half-decade each, but it’s unlikely he’ll serve more than a tenth of that if convicted. But it does put an end to his quasi-spending spree, which hoovered up goods taxpayers paid for and scattered them across the township when not being converted to scrap metal and Chief Kenny’s walking around money.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Two-Person Police Department's Million Dollar Military Gear Grab Ends In Arrest Of Police Chief”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
57 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

This is my shocked face, I know it doesn’t look any different because nothing shocks me anymore.

We have millions of dollars to just waste on getting equipment we have no use for, we hand it out to anyone who has a badge, we don’t have to check on these people because they are the ‘good guys’, we are shocked that despite the refrain of ‘Just a few bad apples’ that these apples keep turning up.

This program doesn’t make cities safer.
https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180822/19380740490/research-paper-shows-militarized-swat-teams-dont-make-cops-public-any-safer.shtml

They are gangs. (period full stop)

We excuse their actions b/c a DA doesn’t want cops throwing cases on the stand in retribution.

We excuse their actions b/c Judges often used to be DA’s and they won’t rock the boat when a good faith exception can allow the Constitution to be ignored.

‘Broken Windows Policing’ is based on the idea that if you stop the little things, the big things get nipped in the bud. We’ve allowed courts & the justice system to overlook so many little things that they expect to be cleared when they murder an innocent citizen & not even given a stern talking to.
https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20180805/12301240377/cops-go-to-wrong-house-kill-innocent-man-receive-free-pass-local-grand-jury.shtml

The recent headline is ‘Cop kills woman who attacked him!’
He was in his personal car, he parked the car next to a wall removing escape paths, she was not cuffed, he was in plainclothes, he forced her into his car & is shocked just shocked she stabbed his hand.
The correct headline is ‘Predator forces woman into car to rape her, guns her down when she defends herself, department twists itself into knots to make it look like a legit bust.’
He murdered a man prior.
He tased a teen for not respecting his authority b/c the teen couldn’t hear him b/c super cop couldn’t be bothered to get out of his car before tasing.
He was driving while impaired, had an accident and oh hey other cops helped him cover it up. They got “punished”.
After HE exhausted all of his internal appeals he finally got a 40 day time out.

Perhaps the country is so scary and lawless b/c we are not sure which side to fear… the gangs with bandanas or the ones with badges… both will kill you for no reason & no one will do anything to try to stop it from happening again.

If the avatars of justice are the biggest crooks, perhaps it is best to do everything you can to avoid crossing their path, they might want your car, home, property, or your life… and no one will stop them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Perhaps the country is so scary and lawless b/c we are not sure which side to fear… the gangs with bandanas or the ones with badges… both will kill you for no reason & no one will do anything to try to stop it from happening again.

Of the two I consider the latter far more dangerous.

Both can kill you on a whim, but only the ones with badges have a legal system(and unions, and others with badges…) ready and willing to back them on it no matter the circumstances, and in a worst case scenario where someone not from either group feels the need to defend themselves from one of those groups the courts are only likely to accept ‘self-defense’ as a legitimate defense when the other party doesn’t have a badge.

Michael (profile) says:

He has been acquiring items since 2012.

That’s, at most, 2,430 days as of today – including weekends.
He received almost 4,000 items.

Honestly, I am impressed.
This is the hardest working chief of police I have heard about in a long time.

He could have been sitting in a chair waiting for his red-light cameras to send him a check, but no, he decided he would do the responsible thing and turn military gear into cash.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Where are the Feds?

The only excuse I can think of for the DoD not going after this guy is that they receive brownie points for getting stuff off their inventory via the LESO program. After all, if they exhaust their inventory, they get to buy more. More buying by the DoD makes those congresscrtters who have suppliers in their districts VERY happy. More money changing hands means more money changing different hands.

DB (profile) says:

Re: Where are the Feds?

There is a reason that the DoD isn’t checking carefully.

It’s difficult and expensive getting surplus gear off of the inventory list. This program is an easy way to document the disposition of equipment. Just transfer it and you are finished.

That doesn’t excuse the horrible idea of transferring military equipment to police forces, but it does explain the motivation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The direction of Government...

Again with the victim blaming, does it ever get old for you?

I fail to see how a disenfranchised, poor and homeless citizen is responsible for the awful government presently in place.

Neither do I understand how one can claim the populace is tyrannical simply because the prevailing politics in power is tyrannical, many of these citizens were disenfranchised, ignored by the politicians and forgotten by society until a scapegoat was needed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The direction of Government...

“I fail to see” & “Neither do I understand”

Have you ever voted for a politician controlled more by their party than their morals? If you have voted, you most certainly have.

Have you ever treated, thought, or believe someone was guilty before hearing the evidence?

I agree with you, You do fail to see and neither do you understand. While there are individuals not responsible for these things, collectively as citizens of the country we are responsible for these things. Just as responsible as the people that look on while crimes are committed in our midst as we do nothing. As we let our prejudices justify the abuse of others that are not in our groups.

If the politicians ignore you and you have the power of vote, why then do you have a problem? If America is a Democracy then why are the people that vote them in free of blame? Are you guilt free? Really?

If you think you are guilt free, then let me introduce you to the first problem you need to solve before you get ready to solve other peoples problems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The direction of Government...

Oh high and mighty grand pooh bah, what’s the weather like up there?

I am not solving everyones problems like you think you are – as that would be crazy, as apparently you are.

The same old claptrap wagging the finger at those who are disenfranchised, accusing them of all the problems society faces today. Yes, how dare them be denied the right to vote, it really is their fault you know.

First you claim others are responsible for all the bad shit and then you say they are not, make up your mind. You say we are all “collectively” responsible … well ok now you are making progress but you still need to stop the all encompassing generalities that blame everyone for everything because that is ridiculous and you know it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 The direction of Government...

So let me get this right, you just vote them in, you are not responsible for them.

Since you do not take responsibility, why should they? And this is an all encompassing generality because in order for this problem to persist we need a majority to keep it going, so chances are… you are guilty rather than not being guilty. Additionally, the fact that you are upset about it probably adds weight to your guilt.

So repeat after me, voters are NOT victims. It is your constant desire to escape guilt along with so many others that creates this problem. I do not expect everyone to be able to attend every rally, address every wrong, or seek to free every innocent, but if your only action is to just “vote” for a person because of their words… lets just say you are indeed part of the problem. Citizens can only absolve themselves of guilt to a certain degree.

The problems only get worse no matter which group you vote for, the division greater, the ignorance louder! And you are “deafening” as you run down the street claiming that you are innocent of your own government, the folks you voted for, malevolence and incompetence!

Ignorant and Incompetent people vote for ignorant and incompetent leaders! If they did not vote for them, then they choose to serve under then instead of fighting back against them.

You are guilty, just like the rest of us, probably even more so!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 The direction of Government...

Next thing you’re going to tell us both sides are bad. Followed by you attempting to insult everyone here because they just can’t understand your genius. Followed by you getting your ass handed to you, again. Followed by you running away, again. Checkered tablecloths have more variance to their patterns than you do.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'You're wrong too, just not as much.'

[Sheriff] Pickell said Kenny took several heavy-duty metal storage containers obtained through the support program to a Vienna Township scrapyard in 2012 and 2013.

Kenny allegedly received more than $5,000 in three different checks and deposited the money in his own account or took it in cash, Pickell said.

"Those three checks should have been placed in the Thetford Township banking account, not in Chief Kenny’s personal account," Pickell said.

Uh, no, those checks shouldn’t have existed, giving the money to the city wouldn’t have made his actions any better. He was getting the items through the program under the (hilariously erroneous) assumption that they would be used, not sold for scrap with the money pocketed or given to the city.

Not exactly reassuring that even the people investigating him are focusing on the wrong thing and leaving the impression that if he’d just shared the wealth a bit more it wouldn’t have been a problem, or at least as big a one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'You're wrong too, just not as much.'

This should give another city’s a good idea on how to make money. Just acquire a bunch of crap you don’t need. Heavy, Metal stuff. Scrap it for money, and put that money into the city funds. Now it’s semi-legal. The city can use that money for whatever they need.

I would rather they do this then militarize the police!!!

Anonymouse Coward says:

The other side

Having the opportunity to work for companies that do work for the military, I’ve met some (lower level) people in the military professionally.

The armorers, tech sergeants and some of the lower level commissioned officer corp aren’t stupid. They know that their own personal pink posteriors are on the line when the shooting starts. Therefore, they are not about to allow anything remotely useful and/or functional out of their hands.

The police are getting the rejects, the hangar queens, the garbage sold to some crooked arm chair general by a crooked crony corporate exec. There is good reason to believe that most of the stuff the police get is, at best, low quality. The remainder is pure trash. Such stuff will most likely get the police killed when it malfunctions.

Yes, the 1033 program is a problem. However, the police are very lucky that they haven’t actually had to face an organized, intelligent opponent with such garbage. In depending on 1033 materials, the police are in for a rude awakening, someday.

AC

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The other side

You argument is specious. Seen more than enough “rejects” do plenty of damage.

The real problem here is the “atmosphere” being set by these tools being use to literally “militarize” the police.

This is what is hypocritical about the right… tyranny through police while simultaneously claiming to be for a smaller government as they approve of them loading up on weapons of war.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The other side

MRAPs are rejects? I know my local county has benefitted from 1033 by way of acquiring multiple MRAPs and probably lots of other unnecessary equipment.

I had the opportunity to see one of their MRAPs in action recently. The officers inside simply got out at their destination and walked to where the action was. That’s a very expensive commuter vehicle right there.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Attire

> allowing officers to dress up like soldiers while waging > the War at Home on the constituents they supposedly
> serve.

So when, say, the Berkeley Police have to go out and deal with the latest ‘social justice’ Antifa mob having a violent meltdown because the school dared to let a conservative make a speech on campus, they should be required to wear only their regular Officer Friendly uniforms because the riot gear might offend the rioters because it looks to ‘soldiery’?

Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Attire

Since you’re having trouble following a simple thread:

Below is the strawman Thad refers to with his first reply:

So when, say, the Berkeley Police have to go out and deal with the latest ‘social justice’ Antifa mob having a violent meltdown because the school dared to let a conservative make a speech on campus, they should be required to wear only their regular Officer Friendly uniforms because the riot gear might offend the rioters because it looks to ‘soldiery’?

And below is the contradiction that was used in lieu of an actual argument, to which Thad refers in his second reply:

You’re apparently unfamiliar with the actual definition of ‘strawman’, nor the fact that the mere word ‘so’ does not signal one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Are you talking about the black cars with black “Police” stickers/paint?

I also finding it disturbing that the police are intentionally picking the most intimidating/iamverybadass vehicles for their fleets. Everything about modern policing in the US seems to scream more and more “F U John Q. Public”, you are the enemy. Either that, or our cops are compensating for something en masse.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...