Two-Man Police Department Acquires $1 Million In Military Gear

from the and-you-get-a-truck-and-you-get-a-truck-and-everyone-gets-a-truck! dept

An ultra-safe Michigan town of 6,800 has claimed more than $1 million in military equipment through the Defense Department's 1033 program. The program allows law enforcement agencies to obtain anything from file cabinets to mine-resistant assault vehicles for next to nothing provided the agencies can show a need for the equipment. Most can "show" a "need," since it's pretty easy to type something up about existential terrorist/drug threats. Boilerplate can be adjusted as needed, but for the most part, requests are granted and oversight -- either at the federal and local level -- is almost nonexistent.

This has come to a head in Thetford Township, the fourth-safest municipality in Michigan, and home to more than $1 million in military gear and two (2) police officers.

The free material, received through a federal program, includes mine detectors and Humvees, tractors and backhoes, hydroseeders and forklifts, motorized carts and a riding lawnmower. The landlocked township also has gotten boat motors and dive boots.

While much of the gear worth $1 million has never been used by the township, some has been given to residents, township officials said.

The township supervisor and a trustee said the police have stymied their attempts to find out what equipment they have, where it’s located and why some of it has been given away. The police didn’t keep track of what they had or what they had given away, according to a township audit last year.

A belated, half-hearted audit by Police Chief Bob Kenny (supervisor of one [1] police officer) showed his department had acquired 950 pieces of equipment, including a couple of Humvees, three ATVs, a tractor, a forklift, and a number of other vehicles. More than 300 items are stored "off-site," which apparently means parked on private property and used by private citizens.

Town supervisor Gary Stevens has been trying to get to the bottom of this outsized stockpile. But he's running into resistance. Supporters of the town's two-person police force (and apparent beneficiaries of the federal program) have been pushing back. A recall campaign has been started by farmer Eugene Lehr, who has 21 pieces of military surplus equipment on his property.

A nearby sheriff's department has stepped in to perform an independent audit but has yet to release its findings. Equipment has apparently been given to citizens but no paper trail exists to track who ended up with what and how much may have been sold by the department. But what's left is still impressive. A two-man department somehow justified the acquisition of seven trucks and nine trailers over the last decade, in addition to everything else the department has stockpiled since Bob Kenny became chief.

While it may seem like most of the acquisitions are innocuous -- not the sort of thing one associates with a militarized police force -- the fact remains the program has almost zero oversight. Not until after more than $1 million in equipment was routed to a place that did not have a pressing need for the items did the DoD finally step in and suspend the department's participation in the program. Equipment that may have been put to better use elsewhere is parked on private property or has simply vanished into thin air. This is a waste of tax dollars that does nothing to make policing better or a safe township even safer.

Filed Under: 1033, defense department, michigan, military gear, military surplus, police, thetford township


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    tom (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 12:09pm

    I need to declare my 80 acre farm as a township, hire myself as police chief and get a tractor, implements and lawnmowers to help the town grow and store food supplies as part of a preparation for possible terrorist attacks.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 1:19pm

      Re:

      I need to declare my 80 acre farm as a township, hire myself as police chief and get a tractor, implements and lawnmowers to help the town grow

      Seems about as legitimate as Disney being a local government, so make some friends in your state government and give it a shot...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 12:16pm

    We've seen this sort of thing happen repeatedly over the years, which would suggest that the DoD 1033 program - at best - does not take into account the size of the police force or the level of crime.

    On the other hand, maybe the sheriff's son-in-law works for the DoD and assigns 1033 disbursements without any oversight.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 12:26pm

      Re:

      Actually, I think the DoD has plenty of oversight. They know exactly how much they have and need to get this equipment off their books so they can buy new stuff. They have contracts to fulfill and a budget to spend, so they can ask for more money next year, cause we ran out this year. And new contracts to negotiate, of course.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 12:44pm

        Re: Re:

        Even when the generals tell the politicians that they do not need more tanks as there are hundreds sitting in the desert rusting ... they get more tanks.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 12:59pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "desert rusting"

          I can't quite put my finger on it, but somehow those reports of tanks rusting away in the desert seem like they might be just a wee bit exaggerated.

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

          • icon
            Oblate (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 1:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Not any of the AC above, but was inspired to take about two seconds to do a Google search which turned up plenty of info, except change 'rust' to 'dust' for increased accuracy.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 3:04pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              As far as why working tanks are being stockpiled/dumped by the tens of thousands in the Nevada desert while new ones are still rolling off the assembly lines, that part is not hard to figure out. M1 Tanks are built in Ohio -- a key political battleground state -- and no politician from either party will ever dare suggest that maybe, just maybe, the US military needs fewer new tanks right now.

              That doesn't explain though why these used tanks aren't being aggressively sold to the many third-world countries that are currently buying ship-loads Soviet-designed tanks.

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

              • icon
                Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 3:25pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Are there any chances that the Russian (Soviet is a bit dated) are either a better design, or cheaper, or both?

                Which doesn't diminish the premise that Congress might be buying things the Armed Forces neither want or need, for economic (a.k.a. political) reasons.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 5:02pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "Soviet is a bit dated"

                  How should we best refer to the Soviet-built weapons factories that are now located in a multitude of countries since the breakup of the Soviet Union as well as Communist Block? Even saying "Russian designed" omits so many things like the Ukrainian designed and manufactured T-64 tank or the (Soviet-occupied) Czechoslovak designed and manufactured VZ-58 rifle. Or even the many weapons of Soviet origin now being built in every country in Eastern Europe as well as China and various 3rd world countries around the world.

                  So maybe the "dated" Soviet term is still today the least inaccurate one for general-purpose use?

                  It's often been said that "Soviet" military gear has tended to be preferred by 3rd worlders due to its simplicity and ability to tolerate abuse and lack of maintenance. For instance, putting ordinary diesel engines in tanks instead of high-tech turboshaft engines like the American M1 tanks have (much lighter & faster, but not something the average garage mechanic can service)

                  But with such a huge surplus of used tanks and other military equipment, the US could do what the cash-strapped post-USSR countries did in the early 1990s -- sell them dirt-cheap to most any country that was interested.

                  Politics can always play a role, of course, such as the Obama-era decision to destroy/recycle US military stockpiles of various civilian-legal gun ammunition rather than continue the century-old practice of selling surplus ammunition to civilians when it reaches its marked expiration date. (but then not everyone thinks civilians should even be able to buy things like armor-piercing BMG machine gun ammo even if it's not (yet) outlawed). And like everything related to the military and government, there's always just plain old incompetence as the reason for many things that get done badly or not at all.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 3:29pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                >That doesn't explain though why these used tanks aren't being aggressively sold to the many third-world countries that are currently buying ship-loads Soviet-designed tanks.

                Would you sell tanks equal to what you use to countries that you may develop a desire to invade in the future?

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

                • icon
                  Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 4:00pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Would you sell tanks equal to what you use to countries that you may develop a desire to invade in the future?

                  Given the current administration, whom does that preclude?

                  OK, not given the current administration, but given the vagaries of US foreign policy over the last say 60 years, whom does that preclude? That concept of foreign policy includes our trade negotiation positions.

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

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 5:30pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    For the last say 60 years, the rationale used to be ... better that they buy weapons from us than buying weapons from Soviet/Russia or China or any other nation that we don't control. There's hardly been any recent war that the US military has not faced some degree of US-made weapons aimed at them. A war with Saudi Arabia for instance would be fought with mostly American weapons on both sides.

                    The military armaments being secretly supplied to insurgents in Syria by the CIA and SOCOM were at first ex-Communist Block (mostly Bulgarian & Ukrainian) made Soviet-era weapons, and then later when America's covert war was no longer covert, modern US-made weapons like TOW anti-tank missiles.

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

                • icon
                  Narcissus (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 12:33am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Of course you should sell them!

                  Of course you should install one of those safe encryption back doors I keep hearing about in each tank so you can switch them off at a distance if somebody wants to use them against you.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 6:54pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Has the state of Wyoming purchased their aircraft carrier yet?

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 12:24pm

    It is very nice to see these people enjoying these stolen items, the sad thing is they can't see that they robbed themselves.

    They abused a wasteful program & then just handed stuff out & lost track of it like it was NSA zero-day hacks.

    Someone really needs to find out why the hell we had all of these excess items when we are at war in multiple places across the globe. How sometimes we didn't have proper gear for soliders, but a 2 man PD could have run an entire battalion.

    This is wasteful & it continues despite all the claims of reform. The government almost cares right now because literally a couple bumpkins ripped them off & its really hard to come back from well this 2 man department really needed an 8th humvee.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 12:47pm

      Re:

      We send our troops into war without the basic necessities like armor plating and flak jackets because we were too busy ensuring that Barney Fife has an Abrams M1 tank at his disposal (note, Andy had to take away the shells).

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

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 12:30pm

    The police chief and his minion should be brought up on fraud charges. Doubt they will, but one could hope that gaining government fund fraudulently would have the same results for police as it would for civilians.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 12:37pm

    Sanctimonius, alarmist article as usual. Anyone here ever try to get anything productive done *without* dive boots? I thought not.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 12:54pm

    Whats the big deal?

    They are land locked and got diving boots.
    So now its a crime to be prepared to help citizens during a flood of biblical proportions?

    ATVs, trucks, tractors, forklifts and such are all useful on land.
    So now its a crime to prepare for helping citizens with their daily lives after the zombie apocalypse?

    To protect and serve....
    Seems like these two police officers were serving their community very well by providing the resources the community needed to get things done.

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

    • icon
      Oblate (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 6:13am

      Re: Whats the big deal?

      Google maps reveals they have a small lake with a dock, and two other smaller lakes/ponds. It's not unreasonable to have some boat/dive equipment. The question I have: is either officer trained to use this equipment? If not that might make the acquisition of this equipment questionable.

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 1:02pm

    Well, I guess giving a million worth of military gear to a PD with two members is still a lot better than giving a million in gear to a PD that never actually existed.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 1:03pm

    POS Bob Kenny and Eugene Lehr apparently dont want their cash cow to disappear so I guess they think attacking town supervisor Gary Stevens is going to keep it going.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 1 May 2018 @ 1:39pm

    > The township supervisor and a trustee said the police have stymied their attempts to find out what equipment they have, where it’s located and why some of it has been given away.

    Well, maybe they can request a mine detector and use that to find the rest of the hardware.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 1:54pm

    aLWAYS WONDERED..

    Why this system worked, and WHy havent the Cities taken advantage of it..
    How many cars do WE WANT..
    How much Heavy equipment do we need..

    We could fix up ALL the facilities with ALL the equipment WE NEED..
    WHY NOT??

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

  • identicon
    BAAA BURPACUS, 1 May 2018 @ 3:13pm

    now its a 3 man team

    also now known as the AAA team

    i love it when a plan comes together

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 May 2018 @ 3:19pm

    The only obvious reason here:

    $$$

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

  • icon
    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 4:09pm

    Question

    Isn't "Theft by Conversion" still a crime? How about fraud and lying on federal forms?

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

  • icon
    OA (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 4:43pm

    Town supervisor Gary Stevens has been trying to get to the bottom of this outsized stockpile... A recall campaign has been started by farmer Eugene Lehr, who has 21 pieces of military surplus equipment on his property.

    And yet, time and time again, corrupt elected officials won't be or can't be touched.

    Not until after more than $1 million in equipment was routed to a place that did not have a pressing need for the items did the DoD finally step in and suspend the department's participation in the program.

    It routinely seems that our military has more money than they know what to do with.

    This is a waste of tax dollars...

    "War profiting" has come to American soil. Whatever happened to money and equipment will disappear over there so we don’t have to disappear them here.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 5:21pm

      Re:

      They keep claiming 'It's the economy, stupid', but then want to raise taxes to pay for it, or the other side pays for it and raises the national debt while cutting taxes for their friends. I cannot keep track of which one is which as they change their positions so often.

      It's not waste when it supports jobs...in my district, so says the politician.

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 6:56pm

    This is totally the beginning of a buddy-cop action movie.

    Totally.

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

    • icon
      Narcissus (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 12:40am

      Re: This is totally the beginning of a buddy-cop action movie.

      More like the next Police Academy. How many shenanigans might ensue if they had tanks, mine detectors and military grade lawnmowers?

      Why do they actually hand out lawn mowers with this program?

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 1 May 2018 @ 10:16pm

    Easy fix

    The township supervisor and a trustee said the police have stymied their attempts to find out what equipment they have, where it’s located and why some of it has been given away. The police didn’t keep track of what they had or what they had given away, according to a township audit last year.

    Simply find some way to spin the situation such that what was given away, and who owns it now, involves unpaid taxable property, and then let the IRS take it from there. I don't think they would accept, 'yeah, you know, I just cannot remember where I put all that military gear...'

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 4:49am

    I'm not entirely sure but I think some of the equipment need more than 2 people to be operated. These guys are geniuses!

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

  • icon
    Lord Lidl of Cheem (profile), 2 May 2018 @ 7:31am

    I'd rather see a farmer with a new tractor than officer atv-tazerer with a new grenade launcher.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2018 @ 5:47pm

    We must militarize our police force in order to make us safer from bad guys who try to undermine our democracy by militarizing our country.

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

  • identicon
    Trueth Teller, 6 May 2018 @ 5:43am

    Lies in this Article from Therford Township

    The Equipment that was stored for Free, Was Never Uesded, It was ordered by the last Supervisor to find storage for the items to get them off of the Township Hall Poroperty, So people were asked to store the Military Equipment until they needed it, All was in safe storage, And you didn't mention the Harrasment and Slandering for doing the Township a favor !! The Supervisor has nothing to do with the Military Equipment, It's Solely a Contract between Cheif Kenny and the Leso Program, Gary Stevens and Stan Piechnik both men has trespassing charges against the both of tjhem, Supervisor Gary Stevens and Stan Piechnik and Trustee STAN PIECHNIK, Now Get Your story Straight and talk to more people involved and not be one sided.... It's a Witch Hunt...

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

    • icon
      Talmyr (profile), 8 Jun 2018 @ 3:19am

      Re: Lies in this Article from Therford Township

      Even if any of that were true, it still doesn't explain why such a tiny, safe flyspeck village needs better armaments than the average combat battalion.

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

  • identicon
    Pissed off Therford Township Resident, 6 May 2018 @ 6:21am

    READ THE "LESO" PROGRAM, IT'S IN BLACK AND WHITE FROM OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, ANY POLICE DEPARTMENT OR FIRE DEPARTMENT CAN GET ITEMS, NOT JUST THETFORD TOWNSHIP.... ARE YOU REALLY SERIOUS, WAIT TIL WE HAVE SOME KIND OF MISHAP, I BET PEOPLE WOULD FEEL DIFFERENTLY IF IT WAS A LIFE SAVING EQUIPMENT TO SAVE THEM AND THEIRS.... Take time to read the leso PROGRAM, Then you can make a knowledgeable Comment !!

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


Add Your Comment

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



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

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



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
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.