Police departments and sheriff's offices aren't the only law-enforcement agencies arming themselves with free military-grade weapons from a controversial Defense Department program. Here are five things to know about the 1033 Program, which also has supplied weapons and other surplus military equipment to a diverse array of state and local agencies with limited policing powers:
1. AN ALPHABET SOUP OF AGENCIES
Among the agencies obtaining high-powered weapons under the Pentagon's 1033 program: fire departments, district attorneys, prisons, parks departments, agents who enforce gaming laws at Kansas tribal casinos, agents who investigate cattle thefts in Wyoming and those who regulate alcohol sales in North Carolina. An Associated Press review shows that non-tactical surplus items have been bestowed on an animal control department in Cullman County, Alabama; a harbormaster in Dartmouth, Massachusetts; and the California Assembly's Sergeant-at-Arms.
2. WHAT ARE THEY GETTING?
M-16 rifles and .45-caliber guns/">handguns are among the most common weapons up for grabs. Guns and other combat gear only account for a fraction of the property that has been transferred over the years. The program offers free clothing, computers, furniture and other equipment that wouldn't be used on any battlefield.
3. WHY THE CONTROVERSY?
The program, and others like it, has long been the subject of media reports but has received much more scrutiny since August's deadly police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, which led to clashes between protesters and police decked out in combat gear. The 1033 program is now the subject of a White House-ordered review.
4. HOW DO AGENCIES WITH VERY LIMITED POLICING POWER JUSTIFY RECEIVING THE WEAPONS?
Doug Wortham, the coroner in Sharp County, Arkansas, says his Humvee helps him navigate the rugged terrain of the Ozarks foothills, but he struggled to explain why he needs the surplus military weapons he acquired more than two years ago. "I just wanted to protect myself," he said. The Wyoming Livestock Board's law-enforcement unit issues Glock-made handguns to its officers, who investigate cattle thefts and other industry-related crimes. But the board also obtained seven .45-caliber handguns from the military surplus program roughly three years ago. "I guess primarily because I can't stand Glocks," said senior investigator Kim Clark. And a spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Transportation says its seven M-14 rifles are never fired and used only as props during ceremonies.
5. OTHER PROGRAMS
In addition to the 1033 military surplus program, law enforcement agencies also can purchase equipment at discounted prices through the separate 1122 Program, which is overseen by the Army, and other types of non-military surplus property through a program overseen by the U.S. General Services Administration.