Many Americans have grown increasingly concerned about small law enforcement departments using more and more military equipment and tactics. As departments add military equipment–and mindset–to their law enforcement “toolbox,” some say that citizens are being faced with military police forces on the streets of the USA.
And the Department of Defense (DoD) isn’t helping things. Through their “Law Enforcement Support Office,” also known as 1033 Program, military arms and equipment is distributed from the Federal government to federal, state, local, and tribal Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). This includes aircraft, armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and small arms such as rifles and pistols, including fully automatic rifles, often referred to as machine guns.
Recently, a sheriff in Tennessee used this program to arm his small department with far more guns than he has officers. With a staff of 31 sworn officers, this small department has received 161 military firearms through the 1033 Program. Add this to the handguns, rifles, and shotguns they already had, and you have an extremely well-armed force.
71 of the 161 guns are reportedly select-fire M16 rifles, which can fire in both semi- and fully-automatic modes. Another 71 are M1911A1 pistols, the one-time standard-issue sidearm of the U.S. Army. Reports didn’t indicate what model(s) the other 19 firearms are.
The Sheriff acknowledged that the huge glut of guns–far more than his personnel can use, even if they each carry machine guns on an everyday basis–is unnecessary. When asked why they needed so many guns, he said, “Well, we don’t need this many. There was a little error in the order.”
But he hasn’t sent back any guns, and apparently doesn’t have any plans to do so. He said, “They’re here as our department grows. We’ll have additional firearms for future officers.” (As if there will come a time when arming at least 71 officers with machine guns and 1911 pistols will be reasonable.)
For small annual fees ranging from $400 to $1,000, small agencies throughout America can arm themselves with extremely powerful and costly equipment. Guns and other equipment obtained through the 1033 Program technically still belong to the federal government, and are simply “on loan” to local police. None of the guns may be sold, demilitarized, or destroyed by the participating agency.
Folks such as Radley Balko, author of “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces” says, “What we’ve done is encourage the police to become more like the military.”
He’s got a point. When those in authority have military tools and a military mindset, they tend to be warlike–which makes it unlikely that they will seek peaceful solutions to conflicts.
I sure hope he’s wrong.