Police Can't Find A Bunch Of The Military Weapons And Vehicles That The Pentagon Has Been Handing Out

from the have-secured-parking-lots-with-cameras,-still-lose-Humvees dept

Turning police departments into military bases has been one of the side effects of the 1033 program. This program routes military weapons and vehicles (as well as ancillaries like office equipment and medical supplies) to police forces, asking for nothing in return but a small donation and the use of the words "terrorism" or "drugs" on the application form. The program has been extremely popular and the US government can rest easy knowing that its excess inventory won't go to waste.

Only within the past couple of weeks has anyone in the upper echelons of the government expressed concern about the program. President Obama has ordered a review of military hardware in law enforcement's hands, but previous to this move (forced by Ferguson cops' war-like tactics), the only thing heard from federal or local government has been the occasional bit of proposed legislation (including terribly-timed, objectively awful bills).

The program operates with very little oversight. No one in control of the dispersals seems to do any vetting of requests. This results in towns of 7,000 suddenly being confronted with the fact that their local police (all 12 of them) are now in possession of a mine-resistant vehicle.

This lack of oversight also leads to the following problem -- missing equipment. Apparently, some agencies are acting like spoiled children with too many toys and not taking care of the new stuff they've been given.

Fusion has learned that 184 state and local police departments have been suspended from the Pentagon's "1033 program" for missing weapons or failure to comply with other guidelines. We uncovered a pattern of missing M14 and M16 assault rifles across the country, as well as instances of missing .45-caliber pistols, shotguns and 2 cases of missing Humvee vehicles.
When you start losing Humvees, it's a good sign you've got more equipment than you really need. Request forms make these items sound like dire necessities but the one thing most people do with stuff they really need is keep track of where it is. A number of agencies are apparently less than concerned about the whereabouts of their terrorist-fighting equipment, only realizing something's missing when they have to perform their yearly check-in with the government reps.
Fusion found that many of the suspensions occur in February, after police departments conduct their year-end weapons inventory.
So, there's a little bit of accountability present in the program. But it's so minimal as to be nearly non-existent. Law enforcement agencies may rat themselves out by reporting missing equipment, but the Pentagon (home of the Defense Logistics Agency which handles the actual hand outs) seems just as badly organized as the agencies they eighty-six.
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.
Why is a system that supposedly oversees the transfer of military goods to law enforcement decentralized? Well, it's because of bureaucracy. Every state handles it differently, resulting in data being routed through a variety of local agencies before it finally ends up in the Pentagon's hands. Like a game of telephone played by UN members without the assistance of translators, this "system" often returns inaccurate or incomplete information. In some states, the agency law enforcement reports to is the Dept. of Public Safety. In others, it might be something as obscure as the Dept. of Career Education.

Pulling hard numbers on handouts means sending an FOIA to the CIA, and even if a response is given (like a recent one MuckRock acquired), it only provides raw numbers on what was handed out to each state. Nothing is broken down to individual law enforcement agencies. So, we may know approximately where equipment went, but numbers on how much of it has gone missing is something that can only be estimated by the number of suspensions handed out. Those losing weapons and vehicles don't really want to talk about it.
The state coordinator for California said he was "not authorized" to speak on behalf of the agency he runs, and instead deferred all questions to the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, which declined repeated requests for details on the 10 suspended programs in the state.
And when they do talk about it, you almost wish they hadn't.
Huntington Beach Police Department said it was suspended from the program last year after losing an M16 assault rifle.

“It was discovered during an internal audit,” Huntington Beach Police Lieutenant Mitchell O'Brien told Fusion. “An investigation was inconclusive as to how that occurred.”
That's comforting. "We don't know how it happened or where it is."

Suspensions might hurt but they're apparently not much of a deterrent. The article lists more than a few repeat offenders. Only in rare cases will offenders be required to return the requisitioned items, and in the one case Fusion was able to track down, it was ordered by the state, not the Pentagon.

Increased power with near-zero accountability. That's a hell of a way to run the business of law enforcement.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    silverscarcat (profile), 28 Aug 2014 @ 11:35am

    I, too, hate it when I lose powerful weapons of war.

    After all, how am I supposed to use my giant robot to deliver goods, services and tremendous pain if I can't find it or the keys that start it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2014 @ 11:43am

    The Cartels clearly thank them for this. Seriously I wouldn't be surprised if this was Soviet disappearing surplus style corruption.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2014 @ 11:45am

    Increased power with near-zero accountability. That's a hell of a way to run the business of law enforcement.

    'Business of law enforcement' rings so true given how much private prisons, equipment contractors et al are making off of these horrid programs...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Eric Hamilton, 28 Aug 2014 @ 11:49am

    Unexpected military equipment in a city

    Hi

    In the early 1990s I was in Graeagle California for the 4th of July and the city proudly displayed its M60 tank by driving it down the main street. I did not expect that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2014 @ 2:53pm

      Re: Unexpected military equipment in a city

      ...the city proudly displayed its M60 tank by driving it down the main street...

      Are you sure the city owned that? Or was it a National Guard tank? The National Guard regularly makes equipment - including tanks - available for parades. You do have to ask in advance; all such requests are subject to equipment and soldier availability.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Eric Hamilton, 28 Aug 2014 @ 5:09pm

        Re: Re: Unexpected military equipment in a city

        As far as I could see the driver, and the others around the tank were from the Fire Department. Most of the conversation I heard was how surprised the were about the low time on the running time meter.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 28 Aug 2014 @ 11:56am

    We uncovered a pattern of missing M14 and M16 assault rifles across the country, as well as instances of missing .45-caliber pistols, shotguns and 2 cases of missing Humvee vehicles

    If only there were agencies that these law enforcement groups had access to that might be able to initiate an investigation for missing property. If they had access to such an agency, and the agency was competent, they might be able to determine where some of this property went, recover it, and even determine who was responsible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 28 Aug 2014 @ 12:17pm

    2 cases of missing Humvee vehicles

    See? That $500k for the camouflage paint is TOTALLY worth it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 28 Aug 2014 @ 12:21pm

    "With great power comes great responsibility."
    - Spiderman comics.

    Of course in the comics Spiderman would be the prime target for that police-owned military weaponry, grouped in with terrorism on the application form.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Geno0wl (profile), 28 Aug 2014 @ 12:23pm

    Inconclusive

    “It was discovered during an internal audit,” Huntington Beach Police Lieutenant Mitchell O'Brien told Fusion. “An investigation was inconclusive as to how that occurred.”

    But what is conclusive is that you obviously don't need those items. If they can go missing for long stretches with nobody missing then your operation lied about their needs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 29 Aug 2014 @ 7:00am

      Re: Inconclusive

      NO! Haven't you heard about the rash of missing assault rifles and various other death dealing instruments? Think about what nefarious people could do with this military grade contraband!

      If anything our local police departments need access to Predator drones, Stinger Missiles, and the like to combat these ne'er-do-wells.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), 28 Aug 2014 @ 12:31pm

    Check the police officer's basements.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    s7, 28 Aug 2014 @ 12:34pm

    Missing Hummers

    How does a Humvee go missing?
    How many Humvees in a case? A dozen?

    I'd issue a search warrant and search each officer's house and garage until I found them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2014 @ 1:38pm

      Re: Missing Hummers

      They are more likely to be found at a holiday retreat owned by the chief of police, or one of his political friends.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      cpip, 29 Aug 2014 @ 5:49am

      Re: Missing Hummers

      Well, reading the linked article, the two missing HMMWVs:

      One was sold by the Georgia Corrections Department while still being owned by the military; it says the Humvee was "later recovered and transferred to another department". I wonder if the Corrections department had to give back the money, too.

      The other was the Palestine, AR Police Department which "failed to report a stolen Humvee within 24 hours", but! "The Humvee was later recovered".

      So there's that. At least the missing Humvees were found. Eventually...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    william (profile), 28 Aug 2014 @ 1:11pm

    They have zero-tolerance policy at school. Why can't they have zero-tolerance policy on missing weapons and humvee?

    Why is a finger gun less tolerable then polices losing military grade weapons?

    Should I be glad that we are not handing out tanks yet since the police would probably lose those too?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Cressman, 28 Aug 2014 @ 1:17pm

    Lost weapons and vehicles

    Maybe ISIS has them... oh wait... that was stuff the government gave them earlier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2014 @ 1:32pm

    So Police Officers are STEALING the stuff It's pretty bad when you can't trust LAW enforcement officers to not break the LAW , But this is the New America where all Police officers tell the truth, all the time ,and they're word is held higher than the word of any peasant I mean citizen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2014 @ 2:21pm

    I know where they are...

    ...because they were stolen by the Mexican cartels for 'Law Enforcement' purposes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2014 @ 2:58pm

    I had a strong suspicion missing military equipment from police departments would end up happening. This reminds me of the Fast and Furious program.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2014 @ 3:32pm

    Obama got that private army he wanted

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2014 @ 3:53pm

    I would like to point out that if an m16 goes missing on a military base, that base goes into lockdown, no one in or out until the weapon is recovered.

    This is why we don't give cops military hardware.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    McFortner (profile), 28 Aug 2014 @ 3:57pm

    I don't know about you, but I feel safer.

    So basically the Police, who's job is to find stolen items and apprehend the perpetrators, can't figure out who stole their equipment? Really instills confidence in their competence, doesn't it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 28 Aug 2014 @ 9:21pm

    When self-reporting is OK

    So, there's a little bit of accountability present in the program. But it's so minimal as to be nearly non-existent. Law enforcement agencies may rat themselves out by reporting missing equipment, but the Pentagon (home of the Defense Logistics Agency which handles the actual hand outs) seems just as badly organized as the agencies they eighty-six.


    Accountability: The realization that admitting you've lost a Humvee isn't going to get you into trouble, but maybe it might just get you another Humvee.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 29 Aug 2014 @ 3:29am

    I really wonder how you lose equipment weighting tons.

    COP: SIR, WE LOST 2 HUMVEES.
    CAPT: Again, soldier? Have you checked that dimensional rift behind the garage?
    COP: YES SIR, WE FOUND A FEW M14 AND M16 ASSAULT RIFLES, SOME .45 PISTOLS AND A SHOTGUN. AND JOEY'S STASH OF PORN MAGAZINES.
    CAPT: Oh, bring me that material for... Ahem... Sorting.
    COP: THE WEAPONS, SIR?
    CAPT: Yes, those too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Kionae (profile), 29 Aug 2014 @ 8:48am

    Aw, cut them some slack. I misplaced my Humvee just last week in the mall parking lot. They're terribly easy to lose track of (especially if they're camouflaged).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GEMont (profile), 7 Sep 2014 @ 4:38pm

    "Police Can't Find A Bunch Of The Military Weapons And Vehicles That The Pentagon Has Been Handing Out"

    Well geez, nobody could have seen that one coming. :)

    Looks as though organized crime just got an upgrade in their basic weaponry at tax payer's expense.

    Of course, its just a coincidence that now the police will NEED to "arm-up" in order to out-gun the mob's new gear....

    yep, just a coincidence....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Math Is Not A Crime
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.