Grenade launchers given to four Arkansas law enforcement agencies by the Department of Defense, which was no longer using the equipment, must now be returned after the federal government decided the equipment is simply not needed by local law enforcement, but not everyone agrees.
“If there was a need for us to launch tear gas, we could launch tear gas with this,” explained Lt. Jeff Silk with the Saline County Sheriff’s Office, one of the four departments giving back their grenade launchers. “That’s what it was used for. We’ve trained with it.”
But a review by the federal government concluded that prohibiting the use of such items is necessary “because the substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items, which are seen as militaristic in nature, could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement.”
Grenade launchers aren’t alone on the list either. Other items that must now be returned to the federal government include tracked armored vehicles, weaponized vessels of any kind, firearms and ammunition with a caliber of .50 or higher, bayonets and camouflage uniforms other than woodland, desert and solid color.
To date, the federal government has given Arkansas law enforcement agencies more than $32 million in surplus equipment, including over 1,300 assault rifles, through what’s known as the 1033 Program.
The Saline County Sheriff’s Office argues that although the equipment was originally used for military operations, the surplus equipment is a valuable resource which can be used to save lives.
“We’re not going to be handling calls, we’re not going to be making traffic stops with vehicles like that,” Silk said. “But when we have bad weather, those people can get in and out of areas where we can transport people who need to get to the hospital.”
[ KATV ]