Scenes From Militarized America

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012


Wired  is the latest publication to take notice of small town police departments snapping up Pentagon gear through the 1033 program.

Small police departments across America are collecting battlefield-grade arsenals thanks to a program that allows them to get their hands on military surplus equipment – amphibious tanks, night-vision goggles, and even barber chairs or underwear – at virtually no cost, except for shipment and maintenance.

Over the last five years, the top 10 beneficiaries of this “Department of Defense Excess Property Program” included small agencies such as the Fairmount Police Department. It serves 7,000 people in northern Georgia and received 17,145 items from the military. The cops in Issaquah, Washington, a town of 30,000 people, acquired more than 37,000 pieces of gear.

In 2011 alone, more than 700,000 items were transferred to police departments for a total value of $500 million. This year, as of May 15, police departments already acquired almost $400 million worth of stuff . . .

Take the 50-officer police department in Oxford, Alabama, a town of 20,000 people. It has stockpiled around $3 million of equipment, ranging from M-16s and helmet-mounted infrared goggles to its own armored vehicle, a Puma. In Tupelo, Mississippi, home to 35,000, the local police acquired a helicopter for only $7,500 through the surplus program. The chopper, however, had to be upgraded for $100,000 and it now costs $20,000 a year in maintenance.

The Nebraska State Patrol has three amphibious eight-wheeled tanks . . .

In Lebanon, Tennessee, a town of less than 30,000 people, Mike Justice, the public safety coordinator, was so eager to accumulate military goods that he used to wake up at 3:00 a.m. so he was the first person logged in at the government’s first-come, first-serve online store. Thanks to his sleepless nights, since 2007, Lebanon has collected $4 million worth of stuff, including tanks, weapons and heavy equipment like bulldozers and truck loaders. Lebanon’s tank, an LAV 150, has been used only “five or six times,” according to Justice.

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20 Responses to “Scenes From Militarized America”

  1. #1 |  dave smith | 

    The title of the Wired article is way off. This equipment is not useless. That’s the problem.

  2. #2 |  Eric | 

    How many of the “five or six times” they used their tank do you think it was rolling with all their other trophies in a parade? That’s the only time I see our county’s “armored personnel carrier.” It’s usually right in front of the Dodge Viper with a huge DARE logo on it. Money well spent.

  3. #3 |  JSL | 

    The irony with the Viper DARE type cars is kids realize early on the easiest way to aquire said cars is to sell drugs.

  4. #4 |  Scott Lazarowitz | 

    However, many local police people across America consist of those who do not like Obama’s federal overreaches and usurpations. With Obama’s signing of NDAA and his NDRP Executive Order, the makings of a federal martial law will already be in place when the economy collapses and there will be civil unrest, rioting and food shortages.

    But I have some hope and perhaps some faith in many amongst those local police forces to use such new armaments against such an Obama-dictatorship situation. (Many in the military will also come to the people’s defense and NOT enforce Obama’s tyranny. I hope.)

  5. #5 |  ALowe | 

    #1 – It may not be completely useless, but it is useless in anything resembling civilian policing.

  6. #6 |  Jim | 

    Cops are civilians too.

  7. #7 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “In Lebanon, Tennessee, a town of less than 30,000 people, Mike Justice, the public safety coordinator, was so eager to accumulate military goods that he used to wake up at 3:00 a.m. so he was the first person logged in at the government’s first-come, first-serve online store. ”

    WTF! This guy’s like a kid on christmas morning. Little boys and their toys.

  8. #8 |  JC | 

    Jim -that may be the case, but they no longer think so. I first noticed the us-versus-them mentality in the late 70s/early 80s when a small-time cop started mouthing off to me about “you damn civilians”.

  9. #9 |  Thomas | 

    A small town near me, of less than 5000 people in 2010, has a swat van and team I suppose, a humvee, and some sort of new type 2 1/2 ton truck all in desert sand color and who knows what else behind the fence that I can’t see through. The town is Adamsville, Alabama and they may have 20 cops.

  10. #10 |  Jason | 

    I saw lots of the tanks and such in Lebanon when I went to renew my driver’s license. They’re right next to one of the DMVs in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Pissed me off when I saw it.

  11. #11 |  Henry Bowman | 

    The only way to control these scumbags is to turn off the money. (Note: this is true for almost all bureaucracies). We simply have to greatly reduce the number of personnel on these departments. If there are no folks using the equipment, it won’t matter.

    Of course, the departments will counter by turning off useful services first, much as the Park Service does. We just have say “FU” to these scoundrels and turn off the money. Truly, these rogues are better off on welfare than killing innocents, which is what they will surely do in their efforts to try out their toys.

  12. #12 |  albatross | 

    Caption for the picture: “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help!”

  13. #13 |  Jay | 

    @ #11:

  14. #14 |  BamBam | 

    @4: military has been training for years to handle “food riot scenarios” etc. Why do you think that is? It’s as if the writing is on the wall, it’s all intentional, and this freight train ain’t stopping until it crashes.

    internet search will provide plenty of pictures, videos, etc. of such “training”.

    As I’ve said for years, all of this empire building and testing tactics and equipment in foreign lands is simply beta testing and training for doing it here.

  15. #15 |  pinandpuller | 

    The onlything I’m waking up for at 3AM is sex or a home invasion. Either way someone is getting fucked.

  16. #16 |  Whim | 

    All dressed up, and NOWHERE to go…..

  17. #17 |  Dan Danknick | 

    Just so you all know, those “tactical” robots they so proudly display are 1st gen refuse that we rushed into Iraq in 2003. They’re nothing more than radio controlled Traxxis trucks with some consumer junk bolted on. They were perfect to field there nine years ago, but now… no. I supplied parts for an emergency equipping effort and all of my electronics have a backdoor shutdown (no way I was ever going to aid Skynet – or worse, the Feds) so I’m sure these crapbots do as well. Wake up and smell the remote disable!

    Honestly, I think it’s great these clowns are relying on such antiquated and insecure tech. Wait until they go on a call and someone punches an episode of Spongebob into their 900 MHz return video link.

  18. #18 |  Bob | 

    Actually, those APCs will come in handy in the incredibly unlikely event that the area is hit by a mass shooting scenario… it will give the SWAT guys something to hide in until the shooting stops.

    Officer safety, yo!

  19. #19 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @14 – Then, perhaps, stop trying to follow the UK Tories in running the economy into the ground for the benefit of your Corporatist masters?

    A hard concept, I know.

  20. #20 |  nemo | 

    Henry Bowman @ #11 is all too right. But the problem will be that as the economy gets worse, and Joe Citizen sees those tanks for what they really are – ordnance to be used against him in the event of ‘domestic disturbances’ like food riots – the resulting anger will cause the pols to get nervous about the physical integrity of their own worthless hides, and will do everything they can to keep funding for the police, if only to protect those aforementioned worthless hides. For, as the old saying goes, “No place is more than three missed meals away from a revolution.”

    Zero for food stamps, billions for ‘anti-drug’ operations to buy Constitution-trashing equipment. If it isn’t already here, it will be shortly…