On September 11, 2014

State, local police stocking up with military equipment

State police have acquired 65 military rifles and an 18-ton armored vehicle through a federal program that allows state and local police to acquire surplus material from the military virtually without cost, records show.

Local police across the state also obtained everything from Humvees to shotguns to generators through a program known as 1033, according to the Vermont National Guard, which oversees the program in the state.

Police chiefs say the program allows departments on tight budgets to obtain vital equipment at a fraction of the cost, because they only have to pay shipping. They also say police need more protection from increasingly armed civilians.

The American Civil Liberties Union says 1033 and programs like it allow local police access to weapons they wouldn’t otherwise have.

The program is controversial after police in Missouri last month used military-style weapons to quell protesters. After those protests, President Barack Obama ordered a review of such federal programs, including 1033.

State police released their list of equipment as the result of a public records request. They have 59 M16 A1 rifles, a Vietnam-era weapon, and six M14 patrol rifles, according to records provided.

State police also acquired a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP), an armored unit.The MRAP will help police respond to barricaded suspects, warrant services, active shooters, hostage rescues and natural disasters, state police said.

The MRAP hasn’t been used yet because state police are still developing a policy, Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn said. It should be put into use in October, he said.

Lt. Col. Randall Gates, the Vermont National Guard officer who runs the program, said departments can obtain everything from stretchers to boots to kitchen equipment to weapons and armored vehicles.

There are 11 Humvees in Vermont, Gates said. There are 91 M16 rifles throughout the state, and 68 M14 rifles, most used for ceremonial purposes, he said. The federal government every two years checks to make sure departments can account for their items and in 2013 the score in Vermont was 100 percent, Gates said.

By Laura Krantz, VTDigger.org

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