Haunting images of local police officials using military-issued equipment to quell protests in Ferguson, Missouri, have raised new concerns about the Pentagon’s controversial program to equip local and state police departments with military surplus weaponry.
The program, now under White House review, has been plagued by messy bookkeeping, bureaucratic confusion and scores of missing weapons.
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.
More troubling yet is the possibility that some of the missing weapons, which were given to local police departments as part of a decades’ old government program to equip cops for the wars on terrorism and drugs, are actually being sold on the black market, Lynch said.…
Since the program began in 1990, more than $4.3 billion in equipment and weapons has been transferred to more than 8,000 participating police departments, according to the Pentagon.
“Congress’ intent with the program is to enhance public safety and improve homeland security by leveraging taxpayer investments in defense technology and equipment,” a Pentagon spokeswoman told Fusion.
While local police departments say they have been suspended for losing track of weapons, the Pentagon says no police departments have been suspended for “use or operation of the allocated firearms.”
Fusion found that many of the suspensions occur in February, after police departments conduct their year-end weapons inventory. In Mississippi, the Meridian Police Department was suspended last February after their inventory showed four missing M14s, according to the state’s Department of Finance and Administration. The same month in neighboring Arkansas, the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department was suspended from the Pentagon program after it discovered a missing M14 assault rifle and a night vision scope that was “damaged and destroyed” without prior approval, according to the state’s Department of Career Education, which oversees the program.
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.
Some of California’s local police departments were more forthcoming when reached directly. Huntington Beach Police Department said it was suspended from the program last year after losing an M16 assault rifle.
In neighboring Arizona, state coordinator Matthew Van Camp spoke more openly about the program, while the local police departments remained tight-lipped. Van Camp told Fusion that there were numerous missing weapons from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, mostly .45-caliber pistols and one rifle. It “would take some time to get actual numbers but I think it was 11 or 12,” he said. The department was suspended in September 2012, according to Pentagon records. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department did not respond to Fusion’s requests for comment on the state coordinator’s allegations.
See more of our investigation’s findings below. This is still a developing story. Specific information about the individual causes of suspension are still trickling in from various local sources across the country. We will continue reporting on this as we get more details.
Full article: Fusion Investigates: How did America’s police departments lose loads of military-issued weapons? (Fusion)