Last week we listed the county breakdown of recipients of surplus equipment from the Department of Defense - much of which, in widespread complaint, has contributed to a militarization of police forces around the country.
Not all of that equipment, however, has such daunting or military-style uses, and a good deal of what's included in various categories - such as armored vehicles - is more everyday than the category name might suggest. Chris Goetz, sheriff at Clearwater County in Idaho, wrote in to describe how the DOD equipment his small county has received is being used there.
After reading this week's Idaho Weekly Briefing I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the article about the militarization of local law enforcement.
The recent events in Ferguson Missouri has put a spotlight on only one part of the program that allows local law enforcement to receive equipment from the federal government. I would like to start with the items specifically list on the NY Times map.
For Clearwater County, Idaho it shows that we received two armored vehicles and four assault rifles. So the first question would be why would Clearwater County need two armored vehicles?
The answer is that the two vehicles that they are talking about are not armored at all. They are two humvees (picture attached) with vinyl doors and a vinyl top which has a hard time keeping a hard rain out let alone bullets. We requested and received these vehicles for use during search and rescue operations. Flooding, landslides and wildfires are thing that we have to deal with at some level every year and these vehicles are a great asset during these events due to the ability to cross small land slides and cross flooded areas that normal vehicles can not handle.
The next question would be, why not use the National Guard during these emergencies? We have tried to use them in the past and it is extremely difficult and expensive to use the National Guard and usually not the best use of resources. Obviously when there is an event like Katrina in New Orleans the event is to large for any local agency to handle and outside resources are needed but when the event is small enough to be handled by local and neighboring agencies why not allow us to have the resources to take care of the event. Because these humvees are not armored the military decided that they no longer had a use for them but they have been a great benefit to us. (more…)