Local News

US defense program gives local police surplus military gear

Posted August 18, 2014

— Military-style riot gear used by police in Ferguson, Mo., has some asking if a U.S. Department of Defense program that gives local law enforcement agencies military surplus supplies and equipment is a good idea.

Approximately 13,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, including those in Durham, Orange and Wake counties, have accepted more than $4 billion in equipment since 1990 under the 1033 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.

"There's probably too much equipment, and we need to re-think some of the federal programs and the style of the equipment," Sarah Preston, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said Monday.

"Some of this equipment may be appropriate, but a lot of it – in a situation where you're just seeing a protest or something nonviolent – this just escalates and puts people at danger," she added.

Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass says the gear and supplies are invaluable for his office and that the 1033 program has saved taxpayers "an enormous amount of money."

Among the items the sheriff's office has received is an RV that Pendergrass says is used as a mobile command post, 10 pickup trucks and a Humvee that's used for rescues in adverse weather and to transport emergency personnel and equipment.

Smaller supplies include blankets that are used in jails and during weather-related incidents.

Heavy-duty gear – including an armored vehicle and firearms – Pendergrass says, is reserved for only the most serious incidents.

The sheriff's office has had the armored vehicle for about 10 years, but it has only used it once during a hostage situation.

"We would not have that equipment out on display or use it in any manner other than something like an active shooter incident," Pendergrass said.

The Chapel Hill Police Department has an armored military vehicle that's used primarily for training.

"It has never been used in an actual situation," Chapel Hill Police Sgt. Bryan Walker said. "We have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. That's our job."

The Durham Police Department has received an armored vehicle that's used as a rescue and transport vehicle and a point of cover in tactical situations, according to police department spokeswoman Kammie Michael.

Sharp shooters and other highly trained officers on the department's Selective Enforcement Team use in certain situations firearms, such as M-16s that have been converted to semi-automatic weapons.

The Raleigh Police Department received more than $21,000 in surplus military equipment – mostly in 2009 and early 2010 – including rucksacks, gun racks, gun scopes, ammo cans and wire cages – but no firearms or vehicles.

Military surplus equipment in central N.C.

A look by county of the number of military surplus equipment distributed to local law enforcement agencies. Click on a county for more details.

Source: The New York Times


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  • Bill Brasky Aug 19, 2014

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    Disgusted, these vehicles are coming from Iraq, did you forget that we welded armor to the Humvees and trucks making them armored vehicles, making them useless in snow and ice...which was your original point.

  • Joseph Smith Aug 19, 2014
    user avatar

    The military equipment manufacturers love it. Classify millions worth as 'surplus' so more can be sold. Follow the money.

  • lopo Aug 19, 2014

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    Hello, why is it so hard to get in the military, because they can't pass a bacground check, they are too over weight or they can't pass the education test. Maybe thats why more police never been in the military, because most have never seen their feet for a long time. They are good at what they do, military equipment only make them more dangerous to themselves or society.

  • A cold, hard dose of Hans Aug 19, 2014

    And police need this stuff why?

  • Jump1 Aug 19, 2014

    This is a great program, and when I was in the military, I was never given military-style riot gear, I was provided with equipment that would keep me alive when being fired upon.
    When the equipment is given to any police department it is the responsibility of the Chief or Sheriff to insure it is used correctly. Remember what happen in LA the cops were very out gunned, and yes that can happen here!.

  • disgusted2010 Aug 19, 2014

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    Clearly you have NO idea of what you speak. Have you ever heard of the military doing a background check on a recruit and rejecting him/her because of a bad background? Have you ever heard of a law enforcement agency having a quota of recruits? Have you ever seen a judge give a person standing before him the choice of joining the military or goig to jail? (I have).

    I applaud the military for what they do, but there are enormous differences between the military and law enforcement. Law enforcement requires training and if a person fails they cannot be certified. Law enforcement officers are required to maintain their certification with annual training.

    Law enforcement and military are vastly different and law enforcement does not need much of the equipment that the military has. My point here is that the jeeps, trucks, heavy vests, generators, field jackets, boots, etc. that are given to law enforcement is very important.

  • disgusted2010 Aug 19, 2014

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    OK, so one person does something stupid. Is that cause to destroy the entire program. The vast majority of the program gives everyday tools and equipment to police that they could NEVER afford given that citizens don't want to pay taxes.

    The media has gone through these reports with a fine tooth comb and teased out the most inflammatory things they could find and then put their anti police spin on it.

    The media and highly placed liberals are now clamoring for the elimination of the entire program. Sort of like banning guns because one mentally ill person misuses one.

  • disgusted2010 Aug 19, 2014

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    That post wins the prize for the most biased, insane post of the day, and believe me, that says something.

  • Forthe Newssite Aug 19, 2014
    user avatar

    Well I much rather our police departments get the equipment than terrorists, that's for sure.

  • disgusted2010 Aug 19, 2014

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    I read my post, then reread it. Did I mention an armored vehicle. This is typical of haters, and the liberal media. Pick out one thing, rail against it, call for banning it and then "throw the baby out with the bathwater."

    I am sure you would be happy to have the police done away with and the military carry teddy bears.