Small-Town Cops Pile Up Massive Amounts of Military Gear
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 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. Although it did help save a man who tried to commit suicide, spotting him with the tank’s infrared camera.
Regardless of their apparent uselessness, Justice, from the Lebanon police, thinks the program is a great way to save taxpayers’ money. “We tell all of our taxpayers around here: ‘You paid for this equipment once, when the federal government bought it,’” Justice told Danger Room. “You pay for it once, you might as well use it.”
To ease potential popular concerns, the Lebanon police painted its tank black, to match its colors with the SWAT team. “We try not to keep these things military-colored,” said Justice.