Last December, the Palestine, Arkansas Police Department noticed something had gone missing. But not until a week after it was gone.
In fact, it took seven days for officers to notice the empty parking space.
Palestine Police Chief Stanley Barnes said “it never crossed his mind” that anyone could take the departments 5,000lb pentagon issued Humvee. “It didn’t even have a set of keys,” he said.
Apparently a young man climbed into the department’s Humvee, turned it on, and drove off on a joy ride.
The $350,000 Humvee, which the town of fewer than 700 people got for free through the controversial Department of Defense 1033 program, was found in some woods, crashed into a tree in a neighboring county after it was spotted by a local hunter.
The police department now uses the massive wreck for parts on its other Humvee, which it also obtained from the Department of Defense Excess Property Program – which gives surplussed military equipment homes on the domestic streets of America, in order to help local police departments “fight crime.”
As odd as it may seem that a hulking armored personnel carrier could go missing from a police department – and for an entire week before it was noticed no less, it is apparently not uncommon.
In fact, at least three other police stations have misplaced or been robbed of their government-issued Humvees in the past five years. Weapons also frequently disappear. 198 local police departments like Palestine’s have been suspended from the 1033 program for misplacing at least 14 M16 assault rifles, 11 M14 assault rifles, 21 pistols, and 10 shotguns, the Department of Defense says.
These figures don’t come close to representing the total number of weapons that have been stolen or lost over the life of the program, however – a figure the Defense Department will not disclose.
An Associated Press investigation of the Defense Department military surplus program this year found that a disproportionate share of the $4.2 billion worth of property distributed since 1990 has been obtained by police and sheriff’s departments in rural areas with few officers and little crime.
The militarized response by police in Ferguson, Missouri to protests following the death of teenager Michael Brown at the hands of a police officer drew sharp criticism and prompted President Obama to announce a review of the 1033 program.
“I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.
A study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union in June entitled War Comes Home, looked at 818 Swat incidents from July 2010 to October 2013, that were carried out by more than 20 law enforcement agencies in 11 states.
The report unequivocally found that police agencies have become “excessively militarized,” with officers using training and equipment designed for foreign battlefields domestically, against United States citizens.
How to start a Humvee: