Military and Police

Some Police Agencies Suspended from Receiving ‘1033 Program’ Military Surplus Equipment

“An agency that cares for its wares will reap not only the dividends of a well-equipped and thus highly-functioning agency…but also cred from the feds for harnessing goods at no expense to local constituents.”

One of the most angst-driven dilemmas in the police profession is budgeting shortfalls, leaving agencies ill-equipped and outmoded. Naturally, cops must acquire not only the right equipment but certainly the right amount for its entire force of warriors. The federal government’s military surplus 1033 Program which provides massive stores of useable equipment to include Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) modified for urban street duty operations is nothing to sneeze at in terms of cost and beneficence.

Decommissioned military assets offered via the 1033 Program are a huge gift for law enforcement agencies, and indeed something to cherish.

Although Barack Obama halted the Defense Logistics Agency 1033 Program akin to how he stunted American progressivism, President Donald Trump rejuvenated the instrumentally beneficial military-grade supply to cop shops across the nation.

According to the Defense Logistics Agency, the birth of the 1033 Program stems from the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 1990 and 1991 [whereupon] Congress authorized the transfer of excess DOD personal property to federal and state agencies for use in counter-drug activities.  Congress later passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997; this act allows all law enforcement agencies to acquire property for bona fide law enforcement purposes that assist in their arrest and apprehension mission. Preference is given to counter-drug and counter-terrorism requests.” The 1033 Program persists today.

Whereas opponents of the 1033 Program resist the benefits of military equipment, believing it amounts to a “police state,” the state police in Texas utilized a 1033 Program benefit to save lives during the treacherous flooding created by Hurricane Harvey in Houston. The Texas Department of Public Safety used a former military MRAP to evacuate scores of stranded citizens.

Exponentially, every law enforcement entity has equal access and police-use opportunities, providing they abide by DLA stipulations outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

As a Facebook commentator on The Rural Badge page stated, “Ask the people being saved by these trucks if they are glad someone had the forethought to get them.” And that comment talks to the heart of resistance and largely Left-leaning oppositionists with false-narrative infusions of “police state” malarkey.

To those who sarcastically and ignorantly ask “Why do we need a Humvee?” the following illustration is the answer:

The hurricane flood-water maneuvering depicted above can not (should not) be accomplished with traditional police vehicles, underscoring the values of law enforcement departments acquiring 1033 Program apparatus far better suited to certain public safety situations.

It really is rather intriguing to know some cops are made to either buy their own equipment or make due without (choked budgets) when mass stores of useable military apparatus is available, thanks to tax dollars.

However, recent reports indicate some police agencies have been either suspended or completely barred from receiving any military surplus goods based on lax inventory-keeping or outright violations of 1033 Program rules/regulations.

Florida Highway Patrol

Accused of inventory flaws, the Department of Defense suspended Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) troopers from receiving goods stemming from its failure to account for two stolen rifles provided through the 1033 Program.

According to Fox4Now.com, auditors from the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency conferred with the Florida state law enforcement agency pertaining to the whereabouts of two unaccounted-for rifles they were provided from military overages.

Although FHP acknowledges both rifles were stolen from FHP cruisers in two separate incidents, the agency spokesperson could not provide details. Scripps News reported, “FHP Lt. Thomas Pikul said two rifles had been stolen from locked patrol vehicles. Pikul was not able to immediately say where and when the thefts occurred, and whether anyone was ever charged.” When it relates to firepower of any kind, accountability is a paramount factor. FHP’s alleged inability to account for the ownership of the two military-grade rifles weighs against the agency’s recipiency of additional 1033 Program collateral.

Per information gathered by Scripps News, “Much of the equipment transferred from the military to the highway patrol occurred between 2009 and 2011 when FHP got 1,815 rifles. The agency also has accepted pistol grips, gun sights and two armored vehicles.” Like any police-owned weaponry in the hands of bad guys, liability knocks loudly on the doors of law enforcement administration. A stolen police agency-issued firearm found to have maimed or killed a citizen will draw speculation, especially from a civil case litigator suing on behalf of victims or survivors. That implies the Defense Logistics Agency can potentially be named as a co-defendant.

After deep digging, a poster (presumably FHP trooper) on LeoAffairs.com claimed, “The troopers were supposed to maintain their rifles and properly lock them up when not on duty. Theft due to failure to properly secure or the loss of a rifle is what has caused this.”

Another poster (trooper) discussing the stolen rifles on the Florida Highway Patrol forum said, “I brought mine in at the end of every shift like I was supposed to.”

Miami Police Department 

Auditors from the 1033 Program found the Miami, Florida police department in violation of regulations and moved to totally bar the entity from any further disbursement of DoD military surplus goods. That is a huge hit for a police agency to take, especially when the recipient entity operates in a high-crime metropolis city often battered by hurricane forces requiring heavy-duty apparatus.

As to what in particular the Miami PD did or failed to do in terms of the 1033 Program MOA is unspecified. My guess is someone in the police command staff authorized an alteration and/or deviation from intended use as specified by the Defense Logistics Agency, placing the police department out of MOU compliance.

In 2014, spokespersons for the Pentagon claimed none of their punitive measures against police departments at that time stemmed from “use or operation of [any] allocated firearms.”

“On Oct. 5, 2017 the Pentagon took the rare step of expelling the Miami Police Department from the program, permanently preventing the department from receiving excess gear. The Pentagon said Miami Police had failed to comply with program rules,” according to Scripps News reporter Patrick Terpstra. Clearly, the Miami PD colored outside the lines to the extent the Defense Logistics Agency auditors rescinded all Crayolas, permanently. 

Custodial Ownership 

Paring it all down, the equipment and/or regulations violations are not solely against DoD regulations, carelessness, or ill-explained losses. Any cop shop’s lax supervision and blasé compliance also involves us, the taxpayers who financed each and every piece put into distribution.

Can a piece of police equipment be stolen from a cop car? Sure, some communities are rife with such desperation and anti-police doldrum…fostering “citizens” brazen enough to breach a police car window to access firepower and cool cop stuff. But that is quite the rarity.

A possible occurrence is when an unattended police vehicle is left laden with equipment such as un-stowed and unsecured weaponry or portable electronics. Naturally, they are not left for the taking but they will be potentially taken if left alone too long. Fully-marked or not, it is relatively easy to spot a police vehicle. And any cousin to the BLM movement is going to find the scenario thrilling and rife with braggadocio.

Fusion ascertained “184 state and local police departments have been suspended from the Pentagon’s ‘1033 program’ for missing weapons or failure to comply with other guidelines. We uncovered a pattern of missing M14 and M16 assault rifles across the country, as well as instances of missing .45-caliber pistols, shotguns and 2 cases of missing Humvee vehicles.”

So, how does any police agency somehow misplace a military surplus Humvee? It happened, twice! Two agencies in question whose irresponsibility with life-size bad-ass Tonka toys culminated in suspensions from further disbursals of 1033 Program items. Per a 2014 Downtrend.com. report, both Humvees issued via the 1033 Program were eventually “recovered.” That last word is typical cop-speak for locating a stolen vehicle.

A “missing Humvee” provided under the 1033 Program expelled the Georgia Department of Corrections after an investigation determined the state prison system “sold a military-owned Humvee. It was later recovered and transferred to another department,” per Fusion’ s findings. The second “missing Humvee” was also “recovered” after it was stolen from the Palestine, Arkansas police department, officials of which “failed to report a stolen Humvee within 24 hours.” Head-scratching scenarios resulting in expulsion for both departments.

I locked my keys within my police cruiser once…or was it twice…okay, three times throughout my career. I never lived it down.

I can tell you that the police department where I spent my career was rather conservative. Each officer would receive the policy-mandated allotment of ammunition for agency-issued weapons. As with all equipment, each recipient signed for whatever was being distributed. The signed affidavits declared you –Officer so-and-so– were accepting logistical and constructive responsibility for what was provided.

Although we didn’t delve much into the 1033 Program back then, the same rituals, accountability, responsibility, and maintenance were endemic features. Tax dollar-funded or 1033 Program-provided equipment for law enforcement is like pallets of gold bullion: Always in your sight, cherished for its worth, and not to be discounted whatsoever.

Community Policing Applications

One view I often encountered when on-duty was citizens’ intrigue by some of the equipment provided via the 1033 Program. Elderly military veterans gravitate to some of the former military vehicles outfitted for municipal police use. They attract to it like an invisible tractor-beam is drawing them closer, fascinated. Conversely, youngsters’ eyes light up when they see “soldier stuff” with police insignia motoring in city parks and public areas.

The Fulshear, Texas police department retrofitted a former military humvee with police insignia and an open feel “community policing” vehicle often idolized by youngsters and seniors alike. (Credit: Facebook/Fulshear Police Department)

Providing it is done right and according to 1033 Program specs, any police agency can acquire readily available tools and vessels for little to no cost. In that regard, complying with inherent Defense Logistics Agency regulations is not too much to ask. An agency that cares for its wares will reap not only the dividends of a well-equipped and thus highly-functioning agency…but also cred from the feds for harnessing goods at no expense to local constituents.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

Join the conversation!

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, vulgarity, profanity, all caps, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain a courteous and useful public environment where we can engage in reasonable discourse.

OpsLens Premium on CRTV.

Everywhere, at home or on the go.

SIGNUP NOW