NEW YORK NY – An unspecified number of law enforcement agencies in Montgomery County, which benefited from a federal program that distributes military surplus hardware free to state and local governments, have at least 12 assault rifles, one mine-resistant vehicle, and one other armored vehicle in their equipment arsenals, The New York Times has reported.
Another 16 assault rifles and one night-vision item are in the hands of law enforcers in Berks County, and one assault rifle has been delivered to Chester County, all under the same program, according to The Times’ story published last Friday (Aug. 15, 2014).
Across Pennsylvania, police departments have obtained 18 armored military surplus vehicles and hundreds of the rifles, a story published by the Pittsburgh-based PublicSource online news service added Monday (Aug. 18).
The revelations are coming to light in the wake of civil unrest in Ferguson MO, where residents protesting the death of 18-year-old man in a police incident have faced law enforcement teams armed with the donated weaponry. The Times’ analyzed available databases to determine, on a county-by-county level, how much former military hardware is in local, regional and state police hands.
The equipment was first purchased by the Defense Department in response to terrorism threats and U.S. armed forces’ use in the Middle East, The Times said. It was either supplied without charge upon request, or offered, to police departments once it was deemed as surplus and no longer needed nationally. Other pieces were purchased by departments using federal grant money.
PublicSource reported “assault rifles are the most popular surplus item in Pennsylvania. The weapons have been given to police in more than two dozen counties in the state.” Officers in Philadelphia County alone have 510 donated rifles, the news service said.
The Chester-Montgomery Emergency Response Team (CMERT), a tactical and negotiations unit headed by Lower Pottsgrove Police Chief Michael Foltz and consisting of officers selected from 11 local departments, in June (2014) took delivery of a military surplus mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle to replace another smaller carrier. The vehicle originally cost $733,000; to obtain it, CMERT paid only $5,000 in shipping costs, The (Pottstown PA) Mercury reported.
Due to limitations of the database it is not known whether the mine-resistant vehicle cited by The Times as being sent to Pennsylvania is the one received by CMERT.
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