Law Enforcement loses assets due to executive order
December 4, 2015
Southern Torch (3918 articles)
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Law Enforcement loses assets due to executive order

By Tyler Pruett

tyler@southerntorch.com

Law enforcement agencies across the country are facing recalls on crucial equipment. Earlier in the year, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting items from the controversial Federal 1033 program. The program, which was created in 1997, supplies surplus military equipment for law enforcement agencies. This allows police and sheriff departments with small budgets to acquire military hardware at little to no cost to the agency. The program came under fire earlier this year, after the Ferguson Missouri police department utilized armored vehicles and other equipment from the government to contain demonstrators. Many criticized the reallocation of military gear as aiding in excessive police militarization. In January, the president signed an executive order banning certain items from distribution. These items include bayonets, large caliber weapons and ammunition, tracked vehicles, certain camouflage uniforms, as well as grenade launchers, which are used to launch tear gas. The order also added airplanes, helicopters, wheeled armored vehicles, and riot gear to a “controlled equipment list” which requires agencies to provide additional justification and training to acquire.

In late August 2011, Anniston police officer Justin Sollohub was shot and killed while pursuing a suspect. The armed killer fled into a heavily wooded area, but thanks to a M113(a tracked, armored personnel carrier) used by the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Department, the suspect was flushed out and taken into custody without further tragedy. Two weeks ago, the Sheriff’s Department was forced to return this vehicle along with another M113. The tracks on the vehicles made them effective at negotiating muddy and rugged terrain, such as what officers faced on that tragic day, but ultimately led to their return under the executive order. After a review of the 1033 program, the decision was made to prohibit tracked vehicles, asserting that, “their appearance may undermine community trust” in law enforcement. Senator Richard Shelby criticized the president’s decision in a two page letter stating that it’s, “clear that this president is more concerned with scoring political points than ensuring the safety of our citizens.” Calhoun County wasn’t the only department returning such vehicles, as many more across the country are being forced to hand over invaluable equipment.

According to Dekalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris, the Dekalb County Sheriff’s Department does not utilize equipment from the federal program, due to a county commission policy requiring them to possess the title to provide funds for upkeep and maintenance. Although the surplus items are free, county governments and agencies are required to foot the bill for maintenance, upgrades, and retro-fitting for a new law enforcement role. Communities with newly prohibited items have invested tax dollars that will be lost, and are even responsible for shipping costs. “It really puts officers in a dangerous position,” Sheriff Harris said, “as much as is happening in this country, and as strapped for cash as smaller agencies are, it really makes me question where this president’s priorities are.” Agencies have until April to conform with the new regulations.

Southern Torch

Southern Torch

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