The Defense Department is putting the breaks on a program that equips 17,000 local law enforcement agencies across the country with free guns and gear until auditors can account for the $2.6 billion worth of equipment that has been handed out over the past two decades, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.
The move comes amidst rumors that local agencies and departments have abused the giveaway program by stockpiling arms only to turn around and sell them to the public to raise money for their cash-starved police departments.
On Thursday, the DoD’s Defense Logistics Agency announced that state-appointed coordinators in 49 states would begin the audit (New Hampshire was excluded for unknown reasons), which will be overseen by the agency’s Law Enforcement Support Office. Until investigators are finished, no state shall receive arms or gear, agency officials told the AP.
When asked what prompted the probe, Defense Logistics Agency spokesman Kenneth MacNevin told the AP that it stemmed from the fed’s simple desire to conduct a “one-time, clean sweep” of all state inventories, in lieu of doing them in piecemeal. He denied that any specific problem or issue incited the review.
“Leadership decided to make sure we have a good, full accounting for all of this,” MacNevin told the AP. “We’re not doing this based on any thought there’s a problem. We’re doing it because accountability is accountability.”
However, this runs contrary to reports coming from Arizona, where the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office was allegedly securing supplies from the Law Enforcement Support Office with the intent of selling them off to earn a profit.
The Arizona Republic found documents implicating that Sheriff Paul Babeu’s office had been given more than $7 million worth of Humvees, fire trucks, guns, defibrillators, barber chairs, underwear, thermal-imaging scopes, computers, motor scooters – all of which the Sheriff tried to unload to balance his office’s budget.
“[I]nternal e-mails obtained through public-records requests by The Republic show sheriff’s officials touting their ability to get products from the Defense Department at no cost and to fortify their finances by selling the goods at auction,” the paper reported last month. “In a budget presentation to Pinal County supervisors in March, Babeu said he intends to balance his budget in part by auctioning equipment procured from the military.”
The Republic’s findings were dismissed by Matt Van Camp, a police detective in Payson, AZ, who oversees the state’s relationship with the Defense Logistics Agency Program.
“I don’t have any info on if something triggered’’ the DoD’s probe, he told the AP in an email, “All I know is Arizona is 100 percent compliant on weapons inventory.’’
With shrinking municipal budgets the DoD’s gun and gear giveaway program has grown extremely popular in recent years, giving away just short of $500 million worth of stuff to local departments and agencies last year – including 15,000 weapons worth close to $4.8 million – more than doubling what it gave away in 2010.
Putting aside the fact that it violates the fed’s program requirements, should local departments have the right to auction off extra gear and guns to the public to raise money?
Moreover, the question needs to be asked, how is the Fed paying for this giveaway program?
(Pictures courtesy of AP)