Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is downplaying the federal government's decision to drop the Sheriff's Office from a program that allows local law enforcement agencies to obtain military surplus gear.
Arpaio's office issued a press release stating MCSO would be fine without the weapons and equipment obtained through what's known as the 1033 program. Arpaio claims the move is a swipe at him personally, although the Department of Defense says MCSO's termination in the program is due to the agency losing nine firearms.
"The Sheriff suspects that the termination after the two-year suspension, all of a sudden [and] just before a congressional meeting about the 1033 program, might be political," MCSO Lieutenant Brandon Jones tells New Times.
Payson Police Detective Matt Van Camp, Arizona's state coordinator for the 1033 program, wrote a letter explaining the situation to the Sheriff's Office. It read, in part:
"In 2012 the Defense Logistics Agency began an investigation in reference to the missing weapons from your agency. They conducted a sight visit which I was present at, to conduct a physical inventory of all weapons in your possession and attempt to locate the missing weapons. Several weapons were located but the remaining eight 45 caliber handguns and one M-16 rifle remain unaccounted for."
As mentioned, Arpaio has a different take, stating in his press release, "I cannot say for certain that terminating my office from the program isn't just another way for Washington to take a swipe at me personally. And what's more, the timing of this 'termination' is highly suspect. But in the end, what is absolute is that the impact of the termination of the 1033 military surplus program will be negligible to my patrol operations."
Arpaio's press release even downplays the equipment, stating, "Very little of the equipment, he says, is even used by patrol deputies . . . particularly now that an abundance of state of the art, high tech equipment is now in the hands of the Sheriff's Office."
The 1033 program has come to national attention recently amid concerns of police militarization, especially during protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Before the events in Missouri, the American Civil Liberties Union investigated the 1033 program for a report released this year titled "War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing."
Through records requests, the ACLU found out what kind of gear MCSO had obtained from the federal government, including 120 assault rifles, five armored vehicles, and ten helicopters.. According to the report, the gear was obtained "mainly through the Department of Defense's 1033 program."
Arpaio's press release assures the public that the department still has "plenty of modern day weaponry, munitions, and SWAT vehicles, mobile command posts, rapid response vehicles, helicopters, mobile DUI testing vehicles, night vision technologies, a .50-caliber machine gun, [and] tents for detention."
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UPDATE September 18: For what it's worth, Arpaio spokeswoman Lisa Allen tells us the ACLU's stats on what MCSO obtained through the 1033 program are incorrect, saying there's "no way" they got 10 helicopters.
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