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“Tanks for Cops”: A New U.S. Government Program

Written by Gary North on July 3, 2012

We all know about “Toys for Tots.” This is “Toys for Big Tots.” Mini-tanks, armored personnel carriers, helicopters: they are all sold at discount by the U.S. government. Local police departments buy them.

Think of this as yard sales for cops.

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 2011 alone, more than 700,000 items were transferred to police departments for a total value of $500 million. This year, as of May 15, police departments already acquired almost $400 million worth of stuff.

What do local police departments do with this equipment? Nobody seems to know.

Maybe they are getting prepared for the Cripps and Bloods.

Who trains the local police in the correct use of these weapons? No one.

Tupelo, Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis, bought a used helicopter for $7,500. It cost $100,000 to upgrade. It also costs $20,000 a year to maintain it.

How about 8-wheeled amphibious tanks? The Nebraska State Patrol bought three of them. You never know when you’ll need one. Or two. Or three.“They’re fun,” said trooper Art Frerichs. I’ll bet.

Lebanon, Tennessee, a town of fewer than 30,000 people, has bought $4 million worth of goodies. A tank, an LAV 150, has been used only five or six times.

Atlanta has an amphibious armored tank. It is not clear why.

Worth half a million dollars, and equipped with thermal sensors, computerized tracking devices, night vision, tear-gas launchers and other gadgets, the LAV 300 was obtained in 2008 and has enjoyed an easy ride ever since. “Nobody has ever taken a shot at it nor has anybody ever taken a shot from it,” Sgt. Dana Pierce, spokesman for the Cobb County Police, told Danger Room.

I can believe that.

Cobb County bought so many AR-15 automatic rifles that every squad car can carry one.

Local police forces are buying military gear. Why? What are they preparing for? Nothing in particular? Is taxpayer money this easy to spend? What about the budget crisis?

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7 thoughts on ““Tanks for Cops”: A New U.S. Government Program

  1. Admiral America says:

    Militarization of the police force is a prelude to martial law in America.

  2. This has been going on since the Carter Administration if not earlier. It was done under the now defunct Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. All it took was a request on Department Letterhead and the military good give it away. Did so many times in the mid-70's to numerous SWAT Teams in the S. California area that obtained equipment from the Marine and Army bases there.

    So this really is almost 50 year old news. But it seems that now they are at least paying something for it.

  3. brian conway says:

    Reason? Better armed criminals and threat of terrorism.

  4. John Stewart says:

    Send this so called surplus equipment to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he's got a real need for it.

  5. LC in Texas says:

    Why? To use against the people of America. Stop the corruption of our country.

  6. How about to seal off cities that suddenly experience 'urban unrest'? A prolonged energy brownout or shutdown, epidemic, an unpopular 'verdict' in a high profile case, a curtailment of entitlements (perhaps fingerprinting, photo id requirement) or…an election result. Politics aside, nations need productive people (producers), whether they are liked or not. While a regime may favor the entitlement class, no one wants to live near them, (just votes please), and in an emergency, may not be able (or truly willing) to sacrifice limited resources to 'save' them.
    Beneficial NOT to be 'sealed in' an area with this population segment should an emergency occur.

  7. Does the Government/DOD intend to maintain these vehicles? Helicopters require a huge logistical tail in terms of parts, adjustments and time. Selling such a thing "at a discount" does not imply that parts, avionics and air frame repairs will offered at a discount indefinitely. Can the City afford the bill to keep their "new toys" flying?

    Let the Helicopter "sit until needed"? Nope. Any vehicle to be used in a crisis must have operators who have "fresh" skills. This implies that there will be preventative maintenance, which must be paid for to obtain.

    A Tank requires PMs for their drive train, the tracks and running gear. Modern tanks have electronics that requires calibration and maintenance – just like air craft. Using the cannon effectively requires training. There is a greater than zero chance that an armored vehicle kept in Police custody could be stolen and used for "joy rides'. So it must be secured at all times.

    I see this program as a Community relations stunt, and perhaps a way for our soldiers to acquire new equipment. I think the joke is being played on Police agencies who acquire these items. They'll be stuck keeping them running, storing them, guarding them from being abused by police or civilians and sacrificing space that ought to be devoted for Police Cruisers, training areas for Police Officers and logistical support of Police functions.