The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office can no longer obtain military surplus gear through a federal government program after losing nine firearms.
The Sheriff's Office obtained the equipment through what's known as the 1033 program, which has come to national attention recently amid concerns of police militarization, especially during protests in Ferguson, Missouri. The program allows for the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies at no cost to police.
Letters to the Sheriff's Office from the Department of Defense and Payson Police Detective Matt Van Camp, Arizona's state coordinator for the 1033 program, describe exactly how MCSO's termination from the program came about.
"In 2012 the Defense Logistics Agency began an investigation in reference to the missing weapons from your agency," Van Camp's letter says. "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."
Van Camp was not available for comment yesterday.
The DoD letter describes regulations in the program that call for accountability of the weapons, and violations of those regulations led to MCSO's termination.
According to that DoD letter, "All investigative leads were exhausted and eight (8) .45 caliber pistols and one M-16 rifle remain unaccounted for. The missing weapon serial numbers have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database."
MCSO spokesman Chris Hegstrom confirmed to New Times reports that Sheriff Joe Arpaio claims the missing weapons were likely kept by retiring deputies.
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 -- "mainly through the Department of Defense's 1033 program." That included 120 assault rifles, five armored vehicles, and ten helicopters.
Across Arizona, the ACLU found that police departments had obtained bomb suits, night-vision goggles, guns, battering rams, surveillance equipment, utility trucks, armored vehicles, helicopters, and more than 21,000 pieces of "other types of military equipment."
For kicks, we asked Hegstrom whether Arpaio's infamous .50-caliber machine gun was obtained under this program -- it wasn't, so Arpaio gets to keep it.
Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.