by Max Brantley
Thanks to David Koon for a link to a report on Wired on how small-town police forces have been buying surplus military gear like crazy.
Small police departments across America are collecting battlefield-grade arsenals thanks to a program that allows them to get their hands on military surplus equipment – amphibious tanks, night-vision goggles, and even barber chairs or underwear – at virtually no cost, except for shipment and maintenance.
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.
Speaking of surplus property: This led David to search for information about that mobile watchpost the city of Bryant loaned to Little Rock for Riverfest in May. An association that promotes reuse of surplus property carried a feature on the acquisition by Mayor Jill Republican Dabbs' police force. It paid $500 for the "skywatch tower" to the Arkansas office for sale of federal surplus. The city spent another $650 on repairs and maintenance and the School District spent $1,000 to paint it.
Bryant isn't currently worried about terrorism. The article explained:
The tower is currently used for all of the Bryant high school football games to provide security in the parking lot, and also at all major events in our parks. The tower provides officers with a way to be elevated over an event. The tower allows them to use less man power to cover a larger area. When an officer is in the tower he is able to see above the crowd, and has less objects of obstruction. Plus, it provides shelter from the sun and rain.
If the skywatch isn't sufficient for crowd control, tanks and M-16s are available, too. The article doesn't identify the original user of the Bryant skywatch equipment. Oklahoma acquired nine of them, however, according to an article in the same publication in which Bryant was featured. It said those came from the Border Patrol.