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Grenade launchers, rifles: Pentagon releases list of military gear given to NC

Posted December 4, 2014
Updated December 8, 2014

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— The Pentagon on Thursday released a list of specific military equipment given to local law enforcement agencies across the United States under a controversial federal surplus program.

The list shows North Carolina law enforcement agencies have received more than 9,500 pieces of tactical equipment totaling more than $15.5 million since 1993, including:

  • Two grenade launchers, valued at $720 apiece, for Raleigh-Durham International Airport Police in October 2010.
  • Thirty pairs of night-vision goggles, valued at a total of $204,000, for the Fayetteville Police Department in April 2013.
  • A mine-resistant vehicle, valued at $658,000, for the Harnett County Sheriff's Department in September 2013.

RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said the airport's police department did not receive grenade launchers, as noted in the federal database.

"They were tear gas launchers, which we would not use and, in fact, are in the process of trying to return to the military," she said. 

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety previously declined to release specific details about what equipment agencies received, citing an exemption to state public records law that prohibits the release of "specific details" of security plans.

Approximately 13,000 law enforcement agencies across the country have accepted more than $4 billion in equipment since 1990 under the federal 1033 Excess Property Program.

The program permits the Defense Department to transfer, without charge, items ranging from first-aid supplies and blankets to computer and photographic tools to weapons and vehicles that are no longer needed by the military.

But critics of the program worry that it could be overused and cause more tension. The program drew fire in the wake of the police response to protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police on Aug. 9. For days, officers in the St. Louis suburb donned camouflage and body armor, fired tear gas and aimed rifles at residents who gathered in the streets to criticize the shooting.

President Barack Obama ordered a review of the 1033 program two weeks after the incident.

More than half of the states in the U.S. previously released agency-level records on the military equipment to news organizations, according to news site MuckRock.com. North Carolina and 12 other states either refused to release detailed information or claimed to not have the data.

Since the 1033 program got its start in the 1990s, the federal government has suspended agencies in several states from participation after weapons and equipment ended up missing, according to an investigation by Fusion News. The ban has also affected North Carolina police and sheriffs' departments, as well as state-run agencies such as the State Highway Patrol.

North Carolina law enforcement officials say the the 1033 program has saved taxpayers "an enormous amount of money" by providing heavy gear for training and dangerous cases, as well as more general supplies like blankets and lockers. 

Harnett County Sheriff's Department military gear

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  • Gary Hutson Dec 5, 2014
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    yes they are grenade launchers but police use them to shoot tear gas grenades. The Military uses them to shoot High Explosive antipersonnel grenades. which the police don't have access to

  • MaxD Dec 5, 2014

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    lol

  • MaxD Dec 5, 2014

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    What are you talking about? Cities like NYC and Chicago banned the law abiding public from obtaining "assault style weapons" (AR-15, AK-47, etc.) years ago. Police in those cities still have them. Plus, the military is part of the executive branch of the government. They have plenty of weapons the public can't obtain. Where in the Constitution are you finding this info?

  • ashewing Dec 5, 2014

    Martial Law, coming soon to any town USA. There is no other reason for a police force to own Military equipment or for all of these governmental agencies to own hollow-point ammo - and tons of it! Best believe they are up to something.

  • Catmandu Dec 5, 2014

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    Well since they bought 1.6 billion rounds and at the height of the Iraq War the Army was expending less than 6 million rounds a month. Therefore 1.6 billion rounds would be enough to sustain a hot war for 20+ years. In America.
    I think that is a legitimate question.
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/ralphbenko/2013/03/11/1-6-billion-rounds-of-ammo-for-homeland-security-its-time-for-a-national-conversation/

  • Paul Costa Dec 5, 2014
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    "The program drew fire in the wake of the police response to protesters in Ferguson, Mo., after the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police on Aug. 9. For days, officers in the St. Louis suburb donned camouflage and body armor, fired tear gas and aimed rifles at residents who gathered in the streets to criticize the shooting."Nice reporting there huh? Shouldn't it read something like "at residents who gathered in the streets to burn, loot, and destroy the neighborhood."? Makes the police look bad the way it is written, of course, not the unruly citizens tearing up the city

  • Bullcity34 Dec 5, 2014

    I like how the headline says grenade launchers when in fact they are tear gas launchers. Nice headline wral. Good little liberals pat pat pat

  • Steve Faulkner Dec 5, 2014
    user avatar

    Tear gas launchers ARE grenade launchers. The RDU spokesperson seems to be as confused about that as a lot of people here.
    Most likely they are M-79 launchers which the military no longer uses, as they have switched to M-203s which are mounted under a rifle.

  • michaelphillips Dec 5, 2014

    Alternative Perspective: Is it better for the Pentagon to transfer this sophisticated equipment to US civilian police forces or say to the French or German, where it one day might also be used against us?

  • Robert Malton Dec 5, 2014
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    It not free the taxpayer paid for them, maybe the defense dept. should start ordering only what required.

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