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Police using military-grade equipment concerns some Augusta-area residents

Saturday, Aug 23, 2014 4:48 PM
Last updated Sunday, Aug 24, 2014 1:04 AM
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Images of civil unrest and police officers armed head to toe in military-grade equipment in Ferguson, Mo., don’t sit well with Augusta resident Ry Miller. Even more unsettling is the thought of local militarized police.

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A mine-resistant vehicle is parked under an overhang at the Aiken County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's office has one mine-resistant vehicle and two Humvees in its fleet.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
A mine-resistant vehicle is parked under an overhang at the Aiken County Sheriff's Office. The sheriff's office has one mine-resistant vehicle and two Humvees in its fleet.


After days of protest following the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer, Miller said he felt intimidated by pictures of police officers strapping themselves in riot gear and toting assault rifles.

He said that sends the wrong message to civilians, who should not be treated like insurgents terrorizing an occupying force.

“Military equipment is engineered to kill your opponent,” he said. “Deploying this gear sends the clear message that law enforcement is ready to kill you if you do not comply. It reminds me of that ED-209 robot in RoboCop.”

Thanks to the 1033 Program, started in the early 1990s and run by the Defense Logistics Agency since 1995, some of the same equipment used in Ferguson is owned by law enforcement agencies in the Augusta area.

In July, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had acquired more than $3.4 million in equipment since January. Among the items were several Humvees, a boat and a mine-resistant vehicle. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office acquired more than 50 M16 rifles, and the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office has a mine-resistant vehicle and two Humvees in its fleet.

The North Augusta Department of Public Safety, which services a population of just more than 20,000, also has taken advantage of the program, acquiring a mine-resistant vehicle in September 2013 valued at $658,000. At the time, Chief John Thomas said the agency had “to be proactive.”

Though some fear excessive displays of force by law enforcement officers, Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Lewis Blanchard said there is little to worry about in Augusta.

“How many times have you seen (Humvees) on the streets of Augusta, Ga.,” he said. “Unless you were out during the ice storm, you haven’t seen them. … The goal is to use them when necessary.”

According to the Defense Logistics Agency’s Web site, more than 8,000 federal and state law enforcement agencies use the program, which allows them to access surplus material from the Department of Defense.

Agencies can place requests for equipment only once they have been approved to participate in the program by the Law Enforcement Support Office, and they must have justification for the equipment. Items that can be acquired through the program range from frying pans and griddles to M16s and mine-resistant vehicles.

The prevalence of military equipment in American police forces has also caused some legislators to reconsider the program. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told The Associated Press responses such as what was seen in Ferguson have “become the problem instead of the solution.” The trend pushed Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., to introduce legislation to curtail the acquisition of military equipment.

A report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that $4.3 billion worth of property had been transferred through the 1033 Program. The value of the property in 2013 reached nearly $450 million, up from $324 million in 1995. The equipment is transferred at no cost to the receiving agency.

In its report, the ACLU expressed concern for how the equipment is used during SWAT deployments, especially ones involving drug busts.

“The use of paramilitary weapons and tactics to conduct ordinary law enforcement – especially to wage the failed War on Drugs and most aggressively in communities of color – has no place in contemporary society,” the report said.

The group calls for greater transparency and more oversight when it comes to military-grade equipment used by SWAT teams. Most of the area law enforcement agencies have policies that correspond with the ACLU’s recommendations.

Blanchard said he recognizes that there is room for abuse when it comes military-grade equipment, but that it’s no different to trust an officer carrying his duty weapon.

“The equipment is never the issue,” he said. “It’s whose hands it’s in, who’s in charge and how it’s used.”

Nathan Cox, who lived in Columbia County for more than 30 years before moving to New Mexico, said he is familiar with the 1033 Program and supports the acquisition of minor gear including gas-powered generators and finger print scanners. The vehicles, though, are a different story.

“I feel as a citizen in the USA, freedom is paramount and I shouldn’t have to fear my police force,” he said. “But when I see my local police force dressed up and (weaponized) up just like a soldier in a war, it makes me wonder about the place I live in.”

Aiken County sheriff’s Capt. Eric Abdullah said vehicles are used in more ways than what is shown in the news. He declined to comment on the situation in Ferguson because he believes what happens in other agencies “is their own issue to handle.”

“Those vehicles are multipurpose and, of course, we have different roles we use them for,” he said, adding that the Humvees were used extensively during the February ice storm to transport nurses to local hospitals.

Abdullah said the easiest way for police to ease tensions with alarmed citizens is by keeping an open line of communication between them and the agency.

“Law enforcement today needs the help of its citizens, and we need to continue to build a strong partnership with our citizens,” he said.

Associated Press reports were used in this story.

MILITARIZED POLICE?

Here are just a few of the items local law enforcement agencies have acquired through the 1033 Program:

RICHMOND COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: One mine-resistant vehicle, one large boat, 15 M14 rifles, 12 utility trucks and 500 chests of ammunition

COLUMBIA COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: 57 M16 rifles, Kevlar helmets and a water trailer

AIKEN COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: One mine-resistant vehicle, two soft-top Humvees and several trauma kits

NORTH AUGUSTA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: One mine-resistant vehicle, several M16 rifles, chainsaws and rifle magazines

THOMSON POLICE DEPARTMENT: 10 M16 rifles.

HARLEM DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: 10 .45-caliber pistols, two M14 rifles and two M16 rifles

Comments (51) Add comment
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sawgrass
2274
Points
sawgrass 08/23/14 - 06:33 pm
17
3
???

After days of protest following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer, Miller said he felt intimidated by pictures of police officers strapping themselves in riot gear and toting assault rifles.

He said that, along with the use of armored vehicles, sends the wrong message to civilians, who should feel safe on their streets rather than treated like insurgents terrorizing an occupying force.

What is law enforcement to do? You have thugs throwing rocks, glass bottles and molitove cocktails at police. That sends the right message to police?

Riverman1
90742
Points
Riverman1 08/23/14 - 06:33 pm
16
1
Why The Apprehension?

I don't get the apprehension. As Blanchard said, you don't take them out unless you need them. Why wouldn't the county want Humvees, a boat, rifles and so on?

specsta
6776
Points
specsta 08/23/14 - 07:05 pm
7
18
Freedom Comes With A Price

Since we all want to be so protected from any and all harm, let's place cameras in all of our homes with a direct link to law enforcement. Cops will see everything we do, all day, so they can intervene if we've fallen and can't get up. Anything to keep us safe. Let's all implant tracking devices in our bodies with a direct GPS link to the cops, so they can see where we are, all the time, lest we slip on a banana peel and find ourselves lost in a deep ditch somewhere. Anything to keep us safe. Right???

That's the rhetoric being spewed by those who think militarized police are a good idea - "Oh, it will only be used responsibly and only against hardened criminals". Tell that to the people who have had SWAT raids enter their homes mistakenly, shooting their pets, injuring their toddlers and even murdering old people who think a burglar is breaking in and try to protect themselves.

Tell that to the unarmed citizens who are beaten, choked, Tased, punched, and shot down like a rabid animal by cops who terrify the very citizens they are sworn to protect.

Tell that to the citizens of Ferguson who were tear-gassed, hit with flashbang grenades, shot with rubber bullets, and had MRAPs and sniper rifles pointed at their heads for exercising their First Amendment rights.

Pops
12508
Points
Pops 08/23/14 - 07:07 pm
14
0
Who and what is Nathan Cox????

He is commenting in the story about how scared he is of the police. What is the purpose of his comment except to find someone to take an anti police stance.....

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 08/23/14 - 07:13 pm
17
1
Specsta tell that

to the innocent shop owners whose stores were looted and burned. Everyone has the right to assemble PEACEFULLY! Throwing rocks and shooting guns because you are impatient and won't wait on the results of a investigation is the very reason this equipment is needed. People like Sharpton, Jessie and their ilk that would incite people rather that let common sense prevail are the reason this equipment is needed. Get your head out of the sand.

Gage Creed
18920
Points
Gage Creed 08/23/14 - 07:29 pm
19
1
Freedom Comes With A Responsibility

Tell THAT to the criminals that descended on Ferguson... if those who were tear-gassed, hit with flashbang grenades, shot with rubber bullets, and had sniper rifles pointed at their heads for failing to follow lawful orders, had the first shred of decency, we would not be having this conversation.

JRC2024
9998
Points
JRC2024 08/23/14 - 08:29 pm
17
1
Specsta, The people rioting

Specsta, The people rioting in Ferguson were a bunch of nitwits and were would not follow any orders. Peaceful protest is ok but they were not in any way peaceful.

ColCo
912
Points
ColCo 08/23/14 - 09:04 pm
10
3
The U.S. government

maintains possession of this equipment. It is "on loan" to local law enforcement, it must be maintained and is subject to inventory control and audit without notice. It can also be taken back without notice. It appears as if the feds are conveniently distributing and staging surplus gear across the country. For future use?

Graymare
3625
Points
Graymare 08/23/14 - 09:35 pm
7
8
Just wondering...

Does the martial law mentality come with the equipment? Police departments did just fine all these years without military equipment. Why the sudden need? It just doesn't smell right. And, by the way, I am all for peaceful protest, not rioting and looting.

deestafford
30462
Points
deestafford 08/23/14 - 10:26 pm
12
3
What is the police supposed to do....

What is the police supposed to do? Show up in Bermuda shorts in the back of a pickup to a riot?

I want my law enforcement officers to arrive at the scene of a disturbance with more force than those who are causing the disturbance.

Those against the protective measures the police possess have no idea what it's like to put one's life on the line to protect the public...a public that sometimes may not deserve protecting but they do it anyway.

This whole smokescreen is nothing but more liberal hogwash to further weaken our abilities to protect ourselves.

Criminals, drug dealers, terrorists, and soon ISIS are better armed with advanced weaponry than many people realize. ISIS is coming...they told us so. I bet they are already here.

Young Fred
19447
Points
Young Fred 08/23/14 - 10:36 pm
10
4
We all know there is at least

We all know there is at least one way to stop current and future wanton, deliberate, premeditated looting and destruction of property of innocents.

So we can see at least a few good uses of military grade equipment used by police.

But, ColCo and Graymare raise a couple excellent, thought provoking points!

Casting_Fool
1175
Points
Casting_Fool 08/23/14 - 10:50 pm
3
2
This was actually in response

This was actually in response to one of my Facebook posts on a related topic:

"Though some fear excessive displays of force by law enforcement officers, Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Lewis Blanchard said there is little to worry about in Augusta.

'How many times have you seen (Humvees) on the streets of Augusta, Ga.,' he said. 'Unless you were out during the ice storm, you haven’t seen them. … The goal is to use them when necessary.'"

I wasn't expressing fear, just serious concern about militarizing law enforcement.

myfather15
55844
Points
myfather15 08/23/14 - 11:34 pm
10
2
"Tell that to the citizens of

"Tell that to the citizens of Ferguson who were tear-gassed, hit with flashbang grenades, shot with rubber bullets, and had MRAPs and sniper rifles pointed at their heads for exercising their First Amendment rights."

I would LOVE to tell them that; right after telling them to stop acting like ignorant morons!! Burning down buildings, committing burglaries, looting, assaulting and much more; sound decent to you?

Those people (not peaceful protestors) deserved MUCH more than they got!! If the police force weren't so intimidated by the Sharpton's and Jackson's loud voice; they would have done more to stop the rioting and looting; and rightfully so!! Those people had no right to damage and steal; actually endangering lives!!

As for the rest of your comment; nothing but hyperbole!! The only people terrified, are criminals and they should and need to be so!!

Young Fred
19447
Points
Young Fred 08/24/14 - 12:19 am
10
2
myfather

Right on, right on, right on!

When the truth comes out, and we don't yet know what the truth is, if it's found the original witnesses in Ferguson lied, will they be charged? Will they be held accountable for causing unnecessary loss of hard earned property? Will Sharpton be held responsible? Was he held responsible for the Duke fiasco?

Of course not!

Why? Because we've allowed a certain mindset to take control. Scared to speak out, allowing the established narrative to dictate even though we all realize how ridiculously inaccurate their portrayal of reality may be!

Then again, in this case, the hustlers may actually be correct. We just don't know.

ONE THING IS FOR CERTAIN!
If the race hustler's are correct, this will dominate the media for months, at least! If however, it's found the officer was justified, the story will quietly fade away.

GiantsAllDay
10295
Points
GiantsAllDay 08/24/14 - 12:39 am
3
10
Deestafford, riverman1 and

Deestafford, riverman1 and myfather15, we don't always agree but I agree with you 3 in this case! I want to start a campaign RIGHT HERE AND RIGHT NOW for Richmond county Sheriff Roundtree to park an aircraft carrier right in the middle of lake Olmstead. I'm mean planes on deck with pilots READY TO GO AT ALL TIMES!! If the us military has an extra carrier I am willing to spend my taxes and my neighbors taxes to support this! My 3 buddies and myself are perfectly ready to fund this. Who else is with us?? We want a carrier sitting on lake Olmstead with planes on deck ready to go and take out ANY lawbreakers!!

Young Fred
19447
Points
Young Fred 08/24/14 - 01:56 am
5
1
Giants

How about we give an elite team a little military grade "observation" equip?

I mean, the underworld certainly have access to high tech!

Can't we meet that challenge without carriers at Olmstead?

csraguy
2368
Points
csraguy 08/24/14 - 02:09 am
12
1
If you were a police officer....

Would you want to be sent into riots with a squad car and gun?

Would you want to be dressed in regular uniform with no additional protection at protests where rocks, bottles, and lit bottles filled with gas are thrown and at times shots are fired?

Would you want to pull your patrol car up to a sniper situation?

Would you want to have only your patrol car to respond with when you have an active shooter on a school campus, at the mall or some other location where shots are being fired?

If your son or daughter were lying in the yard of the school campus, injured and bleeding to death, would you consider the MRAP unnecessary or be thankful that law enforcement was prepared for incidents that happen daily around our country?

No officer deserves to be placed in harms way without the proper equipment. All across the country, for many years prior to this program, SWAT teams have had this type of equipment and it has been used to save lives and end criminal activity. Even if there is no 1033 program, all medium to large size agencies need equipment such as this and therefore it would be purchased with local tax dollars vs. using equipment that is no longer needed by the military and is already paid for with federal dollars.

You may not like the images but if it were being used to save your store, your property, your life or the life of those you love, you would be very glad it was available. And, if it weren't being used by police when needed then it would be used by the national guard who have access to all kinds of equipment as needed.

Our police forces around America must be prepared to protect the protectors and all law abiding members of society. In fact, if they weren't properly prepared they would be negligent in their duties.

Riverman1
90742
Points
Riverman1 08/24/14 - 04:33 am
9
1
Attempted Murder Vs Warm and Fuzzy

Let's think about what this is about. It's about violent rioters being intimidated by military weapons used by police. Is this a bad thing? By any objective standard the rioters in Ferguson, for instance, were committing offenses that were life threatening to police. Shooting at police and throwing Molotov cocktails are attempted murder by any stretch of the imagination. Arson is also a capital offense if someone is killed in the fire or trying to put it out. Considering the danger to police, we are concerned about the perceptions of the rioters?

GiantsAllDay
10295
Points
GiantsAllDay 08/24/14 - 04:49 am
1
8
Like I said... Give the

Like I said... Give the sheriff an aircraft carrier and let him put it in lake Olmstead.

GiantsAllDay
10295
Points
GiantsAllDay 08/24/14 - 04:49 am
0
3
Like I said... Give the

Like I said... Give the sheriff an aircraft carrier and let him put it in lake Olmstead.

Gage Creed
18920
Points
Gage Creed 08/24/14 - 05:00 am
5
0
^^^^

After that.... some Charmin would be appropriate

Riverman1
90742
Points
Riverman1 08/24/14 - 05:28 am
7
0
Give the aircraft carrier to the rioters

Heck, give the aircraft carrier to the rioters. Ever see them try to drive "the bait car?" It could be hilarious.

seenitB4
93819
Points
seenitB4 08/24/14 - 05:34 am
7
1
Ole Hank said this??

The trend pushed Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., to introduce legislation to curtail the acquisition of military equipment.

The same Hank who said Guam would tip over..RIIIGGHHT!!

Yeh ..let us put the police in flip flops & shorts, that will make em happy.
We have TOTALLY lost all of our common sense, this nation is a gonna.

corgimom
36817
Points
corgimom 08/24/14 - 06:32 am
7
0
Riverman, they use bait cars

Riverman, they use bait cars in Charlotte. And get this- they even post signs in the area saying that they are being used. I've seen them.

And the morons still steal them anyway.

By all means, have riot gear for cities! Anarchy can never be tolerated in a free society.

nocnoc
47384
Points
nocnoc 08/24/14 - 06:35 am
4
2
My simple view

With all things on this earth there is a Ying and Yang.

Thus allowing police to be armed like Military Combat Troops presents VERY Good and VERY BAD possibilities for the public.

Maybe a clearly defined Concept of Use rule is what is needed that a Sheriff MUST follow for any use or deployment.

What we don't want is a future Sheriff using an APC just because they have one.

In other words, we don't need a Dukaki type sheriff, in a tank on Board street for less than a clearly defined major situation.

http://images.politico.com/global/2013/11/01/dukakis_tank_2_c.jpg

hoptoad
18395
Points
hoptoad 08/24/14 - 06:54 am
6
2
I am a firm believer in the

I am a firm believer in the law enforcement officers being protected and having more "enforcement" than the criminals. Therefore, I'm perfectly fine with them using these vehicles and weapons.

What worried me when I first read about these Humvees being purchased by the government several years ago was that these crazed leftists will use them on innocent citizens who oppose the socialist take-over. Right now, they are using the IRS, EPA and DOJ to punish the right and would have no problem using them to achieve their goals of "Transformation".

I have faith that no patriotic law officers would ever resort to using them for any other reason except to control the real criminals.

maandpa
469
Points
maandpa 08/24/14 - 07:03 am
6
1
Doesn't Bother Me

He said that sends the wrong message to civilians, who should not be treated like insurgents terrorizing an occupying force.

You're only treated like an insurgent when you act like an insurgent!!

People were robbing and looting stores...the incident was only an excuse to rob and loot stores and to exploit the situation. Police having this equipment make me feel a little safer.

ColCo
912
Points
ColCo 08/24/14 - 07:52 am
5
0
Quotes for consideration...

If you show up for a fair fight, you are not prepared.
-Unidentified U.S. Marine Corps Sniper Instructor

The muzzle end of a .45 pretty much says “go away” in every language.
-Clint Smith

My tone is a direct reflection of your attitude.

First Rule of Gunfighting – Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns.

Adversity introduces us to ourselves.

The line between disorder and order lies in logistics…
-Sun Tzu

Without the stick, there’s only the carrot.

When young men seek to be like you,
When lazy men resent you
When powerful men look over their shoulder at you,
When cowardly men wish you were gone,
And evil men want you dead…
Only then, will you have done your share.
-Phil Messina

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
-Thomas Jefferson

If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism.
-Thomas Sowell

deestafford
30462
Points
deestafford 08/24/14 - 08:13 am
3
0
ColCo...

ColCo, Thank you for those wise quotes.

hoptoad
18395
Points
hoptoad 08/24/14 - 08:35 am
3
0
Many wise quotes, ColCo, too

Many wise quotes, ColCo, too bad we don't have a patriotic, true-blue American administration that believes in them and too bad we don't have more politicians and good citizens that are ready to see the light and take a more active role.

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