your new police state

Small Town Police Departments Really Need Those Tanks, Okay?

Not an actual police officer.

What is REAL AMERICA up to these days, hm? How are REAL AMERICAN HEROES, like police officers, for example, weathering the economic chaos of the past half decade or so? Turns out they are weathering it with lots of fun toys like tanks and machine guns, thanks to a “program” that allows them to acquire military surplus equipment for the cost of shipment and maintenance. And if that equipment somehow gets sold to interested parties, well, this is just the glorious machinations of the Free Market™.

Via Wired:

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. Last year’s record would have certainly been shattered if the Arizona Republic hadn’t revealed in early May that a local police department used the program to stockpile equipment – and then sold the gear to others, something that is strictly forbidden.…

Take the 50-officer police department in Oxford, Alabama, a town of 20,000 people. It has stockpiled around $3 million of equipment, ranging from M-16s and helmet-mounted infrared goggles to its own armored vehicle, a Puma. In Tupelo, Mississippi, home to 35,000, the local police acquired a helicopter for only $7,500 through the surplus program. The chopper, however, had to be upgraded for $100,000 and it now costs $20,000 a year in maintenance.

You would think that the US Government would have a limited appetite for arming a largely unsupervised and untrained rural police department with tanks, assault rifles, helicopters, and infrared goggles. But if you thought that, you’d be WRONG, HA! And anyway, the 50-officer police department of Oxford, Alabama, might really NEED those M-16s and that Puma! After all just a couple weeks ago a man robbed a bank! And a burglar broke into a pharmacy! What would YOU say if he broke into YOUR pharmacy or YOUR bank? Bet you would regret doubting the need for those tanks then, wouldn’t you, because however will they catch these people without an M-16 or a Puma tank?

In Lebanon, Tennessee, a town of less than 30,000 people, Mike Justice, the public safety coordinator, was so eager to accumulate military goods that he used to wake up at 3:00 a.m. so he was the first person logged in at the government’s first-come, first-serve online store. Thanks to his sleepless nights, since 2007, Lebanon has collected $4 million worth of stuff, including tanks, weapons and heavy equipment like bulldozers and truck loaders. Lebanon’s tank, an LAV 150, has been used only “five or six times,” according to Justice. Although it did help save a man who tried to commit suicide, spotting him with the tank’s infrared camera.

A job well done, indeed, due to Mike Justice being such a go-getter and all. Also, Lebanon, Tennessee, has a SWAT team but you can’t learn anything about it because the link is broken. Same with the link to their special response team. But nothing to worry about, surely it’s all above board and they really NEEDED the tanks! Have you ever lived in a town of 30,000 people? It’s REAL AMERICA and it’s ROUGH.

[Wired]

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About the author

Kris E. Benson writes about politics for Wonkette and is pursuing a doctorate in philosophy. This will come in handy for when they finally open that philosophy factory in the next town over. @Kris_E_Benson

View all articles by Kris E. Benson

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213 comments

  1. HogeyeGrex

    None of this stuff would ever be used to impinge on our civil rights or anything.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  2. mavenmaven

    They're just stockpiling the tanks and heavy artillery for potential emergency use- like if Obama is reelected.

  3. prommie

    Well what the fuck are they gonna look like at the SWAT team competition, if they don't have an armored personnel carrier at least! Come on, people, there could be trouble with those hooligans at the kindergarten, the cops are gonna need armor and large-caliber weapons.

    1. mayor_quimby

      They're really low to the ground, bouncing Betty mines usually miss them. You gotta just run them over with an APC.

  4. SorosBot

    "Mike Justice, the public safety coordinator,"

    I can't believe that's his birth name.

    1. prommie

      No kidding here at all, not a bit, but I spoke with a man today whose name was "Richard Shaft."

          1. MittBorg

            Oh, baby! She was a double spoonful. Cute as hell! Baby had serious back, too. A butt you could hold on to with both hands. Big beautiful brown eyes. Multiple piercings and tats, which normally leave me cold on most people but she wore them so well.

            Not one of them skinny kind girls, but a real MMMM, someone to hold on to.

          2. mayor_quimby

            I used to work with a similarly gorgeous and Egyptian girl.. Last name – Fuchs.
            Why, yes, I would like to, thank you.

          3. SorosBot

            Wait, was she a boy who was adopted by Al and Peg Bundy for about a year who then vanished to never be spoken of again? Or was she a Borg who used to be married to the man who ran against Obama for the Illinois Senate seat back in 2004?

          4. MittBorg

            Yeah, yeah, I had a thousand "Seven of Nine" jokes on the tip of my tongue, which was paralyzed from checking out her cuteitude. Little tiny thing, round and curvy, and looking like a chocolate sundae. Oh, and a million tiny braids which you just KNOW when she loosed that hair it was going to be a magic CLOUD of sexxxay.

          5. Negropolis

            Seven of Nine?

            Resistence really is futile. If giving up to her is wrong, I don't wanna be right.

      1. natoslug

        One of my drill sergeants in basic was named Richard Faas (yes, pronounced "face"). He was much too angry a man for any of us to call him Dick.

      1. BoatOfVelociraptors

        I went to high school with a Mike from the Hunt family. He was on the football team. There was also a guy named Randy. Small towns are f-d up.

        Seriously, my name was chosen by the next character named on the TV that was playing in the waiting room.

    2. Baconzgood

      If I had a name like that Id have that "Police Squad. In color" voice over dude follow me everywhere. "Mike Justice: Checking out his groceries". "Mike Justice: Paying his gas bill". "Mike Justice: Cooling a soft boiled egg"

        1. James Michael Curley

          Just swallow it whole. Which would be novel if you have ever seen a bar show in Bangkok.

    3. Tundra Grifter

      Over on Amazon, the reviews of "The Amateur" by Edward Klein (a festival of right wing nutism, by the way) include one by Philip H. Ness ("Real Name").

      What parent on God's Green Earth would name a son "P. Ness?"

    1. PubOption

      I remember that Lt. Hunter acquired a tank in one episode of 'Hill Street Blues', and it was later stolen from the police.

  5. Come here a minute

    A fighter jet would be a great way to catch red-light runners, if your town was big enough for a traffic light.

  6. SorosBot

    Who are these small-town police departments staffed by – Officers Mahoney, Hightower, Jones, Sweetchuck, Hooks, Lassard, Tackleberry, Harris, Proctor and Callahan?

    1. Tundra Grifter

      Definately not Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones. Matlock maybe. Rockford, not so much.

  7. FakaktaSouth

    Tanks in Oxford would be right on time. I bet they wouldn't use them like I would – rolling over trailers and firebombing the WalMart, but man, me and that puma could have a grand old time if they'd just give us a second. Nobody never lets me do nothing MY way around here though. Fuckers.

    1. SorosBot

      I'd go over and crush every car that parks on the sidewalk. Better than those fuckers deserve.

      1. FakaktaSouth

        What the fuck is a sidewalk? We have scooter paths and cars are parked on blocks in the yard like God intended, thanks.

        1. SorosBot

          According to way too many idiots in South Philly, it's either a place to put your car if you can't find a parking space or a path for riding you bicycle.

          1. Negropolis

            Well, if Philly had streets wider than an alley, people might use the sidewalks for what they are meant for. I've seen Parking Wars.

    2. Blueb4sunrise

      I'll bet there's some old sheriff in a home somewhere down there there wishing they'd had these sumbitches during the Freedom Rides.

      1. FakaktaSouth

        If'n you were God baby, I wouldn't even need no tanks, I just got a smitin' list as long as Dennis Rodman's dick (yes, welcome back to 1995, and no, I never got over that Playboy spread) and I'm just getting started!!!!

          1. FakaktaSouth

            I can promise you my beloved first family would be half the reason I'd wanna smite some bitches. Not a problem. MICHEEEEEEELLLLEEEE, she is my hero.

          2. MittBorg

            In that case, consider them smote forthwith. Anybody who disses Michelle goes straight to the seventh layer of hell with Special Attention from Biely. Stabby, burny guy, Biely.

      1. FakaktaSouth

        oooooh a convertible trans am, me and prom and a shit ton of ammo…I wonder how much of a couch we could get in one of them thangs? keep the idears flowing – the revolution's coming and you're gonna wanna front row seat, I promise you.

        1. Chet Kincaid

          If you guys line this up right, you can get Maybelline, Pontiac and Cabela's to sponsor the whole thing! (You gotta look hot on the wanted posters…)

          1. FakaktaSouth

            Shit, we would look goooooood – like Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, 2012 style. excellent…

    3. Negropolis

      Firebombing the WalMart (with votes, of course)? Elitist! What, Piggly Wiggly ain't good enough for you? **snort**

    1. Tundra Grifter

      During the Spanish American War, Fighting Joe Wheeler (the only Confederate General to re-enlist in the US Army and rise back up to General) was at the Battle of San Juan Hill.

      "We've got the Yankees on the run!" he yelled.

      "Damnit, I mean the Spaniards."

  8. Blueb4sunrise

    Hey, we're gonna need all that stuff for when the liberal local law enforcement joins the DFH's in the revolution!

  9. BigSkullF*ckingDog

    Maybe Detroit can get some flame throwers in order to more effectively burn down.

  10. Not_So_Much

    There's around 50K people in my mostly Mormon 'burg. If the po-leese don't get them some shoulder-mounted missiles soon, it's pretty obvious that all Heck is going to break loose.

  11. Biff

    I live in the 3rd largest county in the lower 48, but with a population of only around 40,000, we don't have much use for a helicopter. We leave that shit to the BLM, for their aerial wild mustang murdering.

  12. barto

    Well if your town was named "Lebanon" you'd be gearing up, too, wouldn't you?

    Also, I can think of nothing more likely to have a positive outcome than rushing towards a suicide victim in a tank, can you? What could possibly go wrong?

    1. grace_nearing

      Barney dallied with military surplus too, buying a motorcycle and promptly terrorizing the Mayberry citizenry. Got so bad Aunt Bee threatened to string piano wire across the roadways.

  13. mrpuma2u

    Puma tanks are a crucial part of the war on drugs. They have the latest bong burble detecting microphone technology. They look cool as all shee-it, too.

    1. BerkeleyBear

      The problem is, the tripped out druggies on Telegraph won't move even as that thing is about to crush them. Not because of any protest, but because the unicorn they have been chasing in their minds for years is about to grant them a wish, but only if they stand still.

      I can't think of any event that thing would actually be beneficial for – you need a lot more than one to disperse a major riot, and using it on a small drum circle or fraternity party is one good way to ensure there is a major riot.

  14. SayItWithWookies

    Ahh — heavy weaponry dispersed among small police units without the ability to properly guard them — what could possibly go wrong?

    1. Baconzgood

      WKRP was pinko. Johnny did drugs, Venus was black, and Les drove a Vespa. They couldn't compete with WPIG anymore than Air America could compete with Clear Channel.

    2. Tundra Grifter

      Remember the Thanksgiving promotion where they tossed live turkeys out of an airplane?

      1. Lionel[redacted]Esq

        Les? Les? Les, are you there? Les isn't there. Thanks for that on-the-spot report, Les. For those of you who've just tuned in, the Pinedale Shopping Mall has just been bombed with live turkeys. Film at eleven.

        1. MittBorg

          Sometimes late at night when I've watched too many bad movies, smoked too much fine Californian, and downed too many glasses of wine, I have nightmares that sound exactly like this.

        1. Tundra Grifter

          They're hitting the pavement like sacks of wet cement!

          The horror! Oh, the horror!

    3. James Michael Curley

      One of my high school buddies did a traffic helicopter war on his first gig at WJCU in Cleveland in 1970 or 1971. I had sent him a tape several of my buddies did in Vietnam since we always dreaded and almost hoped the VC would get copters so we did this helicopter dog fight. I still have a copy of the tape rotting away in the garage in a box of cassette tapes I did in Vietnam. I have no desire to listen to them and remind and terrify myself of what I was reporting on or, more likely, learn how vapid and puerile the results were from my "Angry Young Man" days.

    1. Tundra Grifter

      I was just reading a biography of Dashiell Hammett. During the early 20th century the largest American private purchaser of Thompson submachine guns was the Pinkerton Detective Agency. To arm their strikebreakers.

      1. Crank_Tango

        I fucking love Dashiell Hammett! I was just living in the SF TL, just a couple blocks down the hill from where he wrote the Maltese Falcon and set Sam Spade's office!

        Wait, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, Pinkertons were dicks, huh?

        1. Tundra Grifter

          I have a relative who loves the Hard Case Crime series, so I sent him the collected "Continental Op" stories. Along with "The Glass Key." I re-read them before I sent him, and the language in the Op stories is extraordinary!

          As it is in "The Big Knockover." Just the names and bios of the crooks gunned down makes that one worth while!

  15. Hera Sent Me

    The Obama administration is upgrading the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. Sounds like a good opportunity for small town police forces to acquire first strike capability at bargain basement prices.

    Who needs squad cars when you have a gently used Trident II missile ready to launch?

  16. ManchuCandidate

    It used to be that civic pride meant local politicians spread local taxpayers assholes for getting reamed by professional sports teams, major chains, Wal-de-mort, etc. Now it's all about which local municipality has the most firepower based on some fantasy that Diehard or Jericho could happen to Buttfucknowhere'sville.

    1. Negropolis

      Remember when "civic pride" meant building a kick-ass city hall that looked like a palace, or building swimming pools in poor neighborhoods? I sure don't. That was way before the time of this Reagan baby. The only world I've ever known is a world where "taxes" meant "sin."

  17. Lionel[redacted]Esq

    I'm proud to live in a country where most small town police forces could take over Belgium.

  18. qwerty42

    So … are all these local police forces going to set up panzer units or what? Is this to take on local militia units or teh Acornz or "deranged Marijhuana users".

  19. JackObin

    Just think what this diseased nation could do with all the excess lard hanging of it's "citizenry". Rubber bullets, perhaps?

  20. coolhandnuke

    When the ATF agents start stockpiling the booze and smokes that's when I know things are about to turn real shitty.

  21. OneDollarJuana

    The revolution is going to be ugly when it comes. But our local police are going to find out just how hard it is to fight "insurgents" (i.e. us), just as our forces overseas have found out.

    1. Naked_Bunny

      Them Duke boys have explosive arrows and a car that can jump over rivers. Sheriff Coltrane needs a tank and some rocket-propelled grenades.

      1. BoatOfVelociraptors

        A cheaper solution would be to install windows on the general.

        Yeeeehaw! *THUNK*

  22. Hammiepants

    It's pretty blatant when that distinguished organ of the Fourth Estate, "The Arizona Republic", is going all Mike Wallace on your ass.

  23. Baconzgood

    this is why the south and west shouldn't be allowed to have nice things…like states rights.

  24. Rotundo_

    I love the bit about reselling it for a profit: They now can have revenue streams from writing tickets, selling military surplus, seizing stuff in drug raids (even if the stuff isn't even peripherally involved) and who knows what all else. The local constables can set themselves up pretty nicely financially wise with a minimum amount of work. Law enforcement can become quite the little revenue generator in the right hands. If you need any more evidence that we are becoming a bananna republic on a grand scale wait for a couple years of Republican rule and see how much further down the slippery slope we slide.

    1. Beowoof

      The scary part is that there is no rational liberal Andy Taylor as sheriff. There are a bunch of fuck head Rambo wannabes.

  25. Chichikovovich

    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.

    Nearly a billion dollars worth of hitech, very deadly armaments just shucked off like a bag of bell-bottoms donated to a thrift store, in less than 1 1/2 years. And the rate of discarding is increasing rather than decreasing.

    But the reason for the deficit is some guy in Brooklyn who was getting food stamps under three different aliases, Fox tells us.

    1. GeneralLerong

      With second-hand cast-off armaments they haven't the chops to maintain or repair. Let's hope the ammo is out of date, too.
      Heh.
      Heheheh.
      HehehehehehBuWAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA.

      I'm feeling much better now, Dave.

  26. Baconzgood

    "Ya gotta nip it in the buuuud Andy…Now *sniff and pull up pants* where are the keys to that M1A1? *slapping belly* I'm gonna teach this drunk a lesson or two"

    (Scene from "Mayberry 2013")

  27. Naked_Bunny

    Thank goodness we have the right to own handguns and hunting rifles to protect ourselves from the government!

    1. Swampgas_Man

      I shit you not, at least three letters to my local fishwrap today concerned the Importance of the Second Amendment, and how it will Defend Our Freedumbs From the Big Bad Obama Tyranny!1!! The locals have their high-caliber security blankets, and the Feds have considerably bigger ones.

    2. MilwaukeeKent

      That's why I call the 2nd Amendment "quaint". In their fevered dreams of Ruby Ridge-type standoffs, not sure what they'd do when the first drone comes over the ridge-line, but "shit their pants" is a good guess.

  28. Beowoof

    Cooter and Bubba are going to be looking for any of you liberal Yankee fucks driving through their neck of the woods.

  29. poorgradstudent

    Well we'd all like to know if you happen to have another idea where the warlords of future America are supposed to get their weapons.

  30. Guppy

    Although it did help save a man who tried to commit suicide, spotting him with the tank’s infrared camera.

    Now if only the municipalities had access to government-surplus social workers, so that something might have been done beyond just postponing the next attempt.

    1. Dashboard Buddha

      Made in Germany – Your go-to provider of armored vehicles.

      Remember: When you absolutely, positively need to destroy civil rights overnight. PUMA!

  31. natoslug

    I feel so cheated. My local police force no longer exists, so we keep wasting money on the new library when we could be getting all the cool toys. I bet the crows over at the dumpster behind the market wouldn't shit on my truck so often if we had a police force properly outfitted with rocket launchers. If we had police, maybe we could get one of them fancy traffic lights. And a second road through town.

  32. BlueStateLibel

    Glad to see the cops will finally have the fire and tank power to break up those little brats always congregating at the Quickie Mart on Rt. 36.

  33. GeorgiaBurning

    How many cops get laid off so that the PD can afford to maintain the copters and tanks?

  34. chascates

    Just as long as thecops have the drones to spy on us Blackwater Xe can take care of the real fighting. Of the American civilian population.

  35. BaldarTCrabass

    Shit, that stuff is just gonna sit there and rust. I'm more worried that they'll be buying used waterboards and testicle electrodes.

  36. chascates

    The worst news is that there really isn't any law officers like Deputy Fife or Sheriff Roscoe any more. Whether former military or not most have been trained to use highly lethal weaponry and are naturally suspicious of anyone they have to deal with. Even in a village with a single officer he/she is equipped with sidearm, taser, pepper spray, shotgun, and a rifle in the trunk. And the aforementioned items (except long guns) are on their belt as well as a light, handcuffs, plastic gloves, extra clips–heavy as hell.
    As long as you're white, dressed nicely, without unusual hair, tattoos, piercings, etc. and are polite, move slowly, and act afraid you probably don't have anything to worry about.

  37. PubOption

    I think Joe (Pink Panties) Arpiao used a tank to smash into a suspected cockfight, and flattened most of the birds in the process. More army surplus equipment?

  38. BarackMyWorld

    This is like the ATF's "Operation Fast and Furious," except its neither fast nor furious. Its "Operation Slow and Silly."

  39. MosesInvests

    I bet those small-town cops have a WONDERFUL time with those tanks. For those who don't know, tanks are noisy, smelly (motor oil, hydraulic fluid, cordite and sweat), cramped (hard to get those donut-stuffed bellies in) and, being large pieces of metal, are ovens in the summer and freezers in the winter. Fun times (ex tank crewman, here).

    1. M. Bouffant

      Nope:

      The Nebraska State Patrol has three amphibious eight-wheeled tanks. Acquired almost three years ago, their highest achievement has been helping with a flood last year and with a shooting a couple of weeks ago. Overall, it has been deployed five times. At least, officers love driving them. “They’re fun,” said trooper Art Frerichs to the Lincoln Journal Star in 2010. And the ride, according to Patrol Sgt. Loveless, “is very smooth.”

  40. Negropolis

    Lebanon’s tank, an LAV 150, has been used only “five or six times,” according to Justice. Although it did help save a man who tried to commit suicide, spotting him with the tank’s infrared camera.

    I know I can't be the only one laughing uncontrollably at this.

  41. Negropolis

    Okay, Detroit is literally burning to the ground, besieged by violent crime, and can't keep the lights on, but for the low price of shipping & handling, they too can own their own tank! Too bad there won't be enough officers around to man it.

  42. M. Bouffant

    A little something I typed earlier today, 'cause I was too lazy to do it yesterday:

    Rational beings might wonder where the OUTRAGE is when the U.S. government arms dangerous criminaldrug gangs"police forces" in these United Snakes, as documented at Danger Room. Arming these pin-dicked compensating murderers not just w/ semi-auto rifles, either, but infantry fighting vehicles & the like.

  43. Terry

    Back in the late 60's, my father's VFW post owned a fully operational tank. I believe it was from WW2, but might have been Korea. They'd drive it in parades with majorettes (including myself) marching either in front or behind it. We preferred to march behind it. Why? Because the guys who would drive the tank drank beer before, during, and after each parade. The tank sometimes had problems holding a straight line down the middle of the road. This drunk tank driving concerned the State Police a wee bit. Several towns also complained that the tank tore up their road surfaces when it rolled down a parade route. So, the State insisted that the tank be taken out of service. State Police officers insisted on being present when the tank was bolted into place on a cement slab in front of the VFW hall, the engine was disabled, and cement was poured into the big gun. Several people still insist that the State Police were sort of spoil sports about the whole thing. I, on the other hand, learned a life lesson. Never march in front of something that can squish you, especially when it's driven by a couple of drunks.

  44. ttommyunger

    Sadly, this is nothing new. My first job in Law Enforcement (when discharged from the Army, 1962), we had a surplus armored car. I walked by it every day for five years, never saw it move or heard its engine. Boys like toys. Some boys grow up to be career cops (but not really).

  45. outragedcitizen

    Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi… Hummmm… We've known for a long time that the US government has a bad habit of arming a lot of countries that eventually use those arms on our own soldiers, (I'm looking at you Afghanistan and Iraq), but it looks to me like we are helping to rebuild the Confederate Army. I think the South is getting ready to rise again.

  46. larrykat

    I know some cops. Many of them are like overgrown kids playing "army". LCD guys. Sort of scary what the PDs around here will take… but they're all "HEROES"!

  47. Quayle2012_KNOT

    Shore could use a few Claymores. It do get tirin' puttin' the 'Gansett down and havin' ta shout…."Get OFF my lawn!"

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