Sparing use of military equipment
Cheney Police Department resorts to federal military surplus program when other options aren’t available
Cheney Police Chief John Hensley and department Cmdr. Rick Campbell want residents to know the department does not have any automatic weapons.
In fact, the majority of items used by Cheney Police are all of law enforcement and not military grade issue, Campbell said. And while the department has used the federal 1033 program in the past to obtain military hardware, it has since transitioned those items into law enforcement grade equipment through non-military sources.
“We don’t need a boat, MRAP, armored personnel carrier or helicopter,” Campbell said.
The 1033 program has come under increased focus recently because of the shooting death of an 18-year-old unarmed black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. In attempting to quell some of the violent protests that followed, Ferguson Police and St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office personnel were seen using paramilitary tactics and military weapons acquired through the 1033 program as well as through grants from the Department of Homeland Security.
Originally authorized by Congress in the 1990 and 1991 National Defense Authorization acts, the 1033 program allowed the transfer of excess Department of Defense personal property to qualifying federal and state agencies for use in counter-drug activities. In 1995 the program came under the Defense Logistics Agency’s jurisdiction and was expanded through the 1997 Defense Authorization Act to allow law enforcement agencies to acquire property for purposes that assisted their arrest and apprehension missions.
It is currently overseen by the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) located in Battle Creek, Mich., which, according to the LESO website, has transferred over $5.1 billion in property since inception, over $449 million to law enforcement in 2013 alone.
According to an Aug. 15 McClatchy-Tribune story, various St. Louis County police agencies have received everything from assault rifles and night vision equipment to helicopters, Humvees and an explosive ordinance robot through the program.
Campbell said Cheney purchased Crown Victoria police cruisers through the 1033 program, the last in 2003-2004, but has since phased those out and utilizes a state contract to obtain vehicles. The majority of 1033 purchases have been small items, such as gas masks, ballistic helmets and portable radios and have since been transitioned into law enforcement grade equipment.
Cheney did receive a pair of M16 rifles through 1033 to assist in establishing its patrol rifle program. Those were traded out once the department transferred to the AR15 program.
“That got us through until we could buy our own, then we gave back the M16s,” Campbell said.
If larger tactical equipment is needed, the department relies on resources from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff’s Office Patrol Command Capt. Mark Werner said they used the 1033 program to start the air support unit, obtaining a U.S. Army Bell OH-58 helicopter termed “Air-1” in 2005.
They recently picked up two more OH-58 helicopters, one for spare parts and one as a replacement should Air-1 be down for repairs and air support is needed, such as for search and rescue.
Werner said the department also picked up an MRAP, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, armored personnel carrier for its tactical response teams.
“We see that as a defensive tool,” Werner said. “(It’s for) getting people safely in and out of active shooter situations.”
Both Werner and Campbell said a lot of their equipment is obtained through the Department of Homeland Security. Much of that comes via State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) grants, Spokane County Sheriffs Office Region 9 coordinator Darrell Ruby said.
States compete for the federal grant funding based upon threat and risk assessments. Ruby said once states receive the federal allocation, that money is then passed to regional agencies through a formula that includes capability assessments, program gap assessments along with variables such as risk.
“It’s fairly consistent, but has been tweaked a bit,” Ruby said.
Region 9, which consists of Adams, Asotin, Garfield, Grant, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens and Whitman counties along with three tribal agencies, received almost $25 million in federal funding from the program’s inception in 2003 through 2010. That money has since tailored off, with Ruby estimating the amount coming in 2014 at about $500,000.
“It’s to be expected,” he said. “It didn’t surprise any of us.”
Ruby said the SHSP program works to create regional response capabilities that benefit all agencies. Program needs are assessed and funding is leveraged to enhance an agency’s capabilities.
“We try to work with local departments and agencies to determine what the gaps really are,” Ruby said. “If we can do that, we work with them to fill the needs and create capabilities which are then sustained by the local agency.”
Campbell said the Homeland Security or other non-military programs are Cheney’s first choice when it comes to funding equipment and training. The department retains its membership in the 1033 program solely as a stopgap measure.
“If we need to jump start a program, we can use the 1033 program to pull from and go from there until we can purchase new or better equipment,” he said. “There are a number of different programs we can use.”
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.