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A look into federal documents shows a Texas county got $400K in military equipment

(MCT) -- Rural law enforcement agencies in Lubbock County have received more than $400,000 in surplus military equipment through a program that — in light of the recent events in Missouri — is seen as contributing to the militarization of the nation’s police force.

The Levelland and Wolfforth police departments have both received equipment.

Neither the Lubbock Police Department nor the Lubbock County Sheriff’s Office have requested or received military-grade equipment through the Department of Defense program, according to agency spokesmen.

It is unclear whether other Lubbock County law enforcement agencies have received military equipment through the program, called 1033.

The equipment ranges from rifles and 45 mm pistols to Humvees and dump trucks.

Since 2006, Texas law enforcement agencies have received $93.9 million in surplus military equipment, according to DoD data. Lubbock County’s portion was $417,117.19.

County law enforcement agencies in 14 counties across the region have received more than $2.7 million in free military equipment, and area law enforcement officials defend the practice.

In the past five years, the Wolfforth department has received several vehicles, including two dump trucks, a road grader, mobile office truck and a Humvee, said Police Chief Rick Scott.

The Humvee, Scott said, has been used to help stranded motorists on highways 179 and 62/82.

Scott’s department also has gotten M16 rifles and storage equipment.

“Everything we have is for a rescue-type situation,” Scott said. “We don’t face riots or hostages on a daily situation so we have not seen a need for that same kind of stuff.”

Passed by Congress in 1990, the National Defense Authorization Act allows the secretary of defense to transfer property, including small arms and ammunition, to state and local agencies.

The federal program has come under fire in the wake of the heavily armed police response to mostly peaceful protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, on June 9.

Law enforcement officials said Wednesday the criticism was unfair.

“The criticism of the program, when you look at how we’ve applied it, I think is unwarranted,” Scott said. “Some of it, yes, is camouflaged, but the paint scheme has nothing to do with what it’s used for.”

Idalou police Chief Albert Garcia agreed, echoing the sentiments of officials across the nation.

“Quite honestly, the cities that have been able to afford this type of equipment are still going to get it even if the program is dissembled,” Garcia said.

“In today’s law enforcement, sometimes the criminal element out there outguns us. They have larger guns or larger caliber-type guns that put police officers in jeopardy.”

Idalou has not yet requested or received any military equipment, Garcia said.

Nearly every county across the region received some military equipment, with the exception of Lynn, Howard, Hockley and Terry, according to DoD data. Some, such as Lamb County, received as little $276 in equipment.

Midland County received the lion’s share, more than $1 million in equipment since 2006.

Free to law enforcement after filling out a 16-page application, agencies need only to pick up the equipment. Agencies can even create an online wish list of equipment they would like to acquire.

“Look, it’s our leftover stuff,” said Mark Wright, a DoD spokesman. “We’re happy to see that it’s going to good use.”

Since the program’s inception, more than $5 billion in military property has been transferred to law enforcement agencies, according to the Defense Logistics Agency. In 2013, $449.3 million in property was given to more than 8,000 law enforcement agencies.

The DOD did not release agency names that have received equipment.

Follow Nicole on Twitter @nbrambila

Source: Department of Defense

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©2014 the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas). Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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