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.