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Government, Politics & Issues

Missouri will retrieve two Humvees from Ferguson

U.S. Army soldiers used Humvees in Iraq.
Photographers Mate 3rd Class Shawn Hussong | U.S. Navy | Wikipedia
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The Pentagon is asking Missouri to retrieve two Humvees from Ferguson. The reason for the request is an apparent discrepancy in documentation over how many Humvees are on the books for Ferguson. The Missouri Department of Public Safety says its records show four Humvees in Ferguson, but the Pentagon’s records reportedly only show two assigned to the city.

The Defense Department’s 1033 program, from which local law enforcement agencies across the U.S., may request everything from M-16 assault rifles to old filing cabinets, came under scrutiny by the Obama administration and Congress following last year’s clashes between protesters and police in Ferguson.

Britain's The Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday, that Ferguson was “being forced by the Obama administration to return two military vehicles it obtained from the Pentagon…” making it sound as though Ferguson was being singled out for some reason.

The Pentagon is not alleging that Ferguson has done anything improper with the additional Humvees, but because of the records discrepancy, the Pentagon says the state must take control of the vehicles for now. A Defense Department spokesman says Ferguson, as well as any other department in Missouri, may request the vehicles once the state has them back within its control and a request has been properly processed and documented.

At the same time Ferguson received two of its four Humvees, three other agencies also received vehicles that, according to Mike O’Connell with the Department of Public Safety, were also not reflected in the Pentagon’s records. O’Connell says the state has not been asked to retrieve those other Humvees. Unlike Ferguson, those other agencies have only one Humvee each. They include the Montgomery County sheriff’s office, the Winfield Police Department, and the Springfield-Branson National Airport. Each confirmed to St. Louis Public Radio in phone calls that they have only one Humvee.

Mixed reaction

Winfield Police Chief Charles Hobby said, his department used its Humvee to rescue “25 people and six dogs” from recent flooding.

Lt. Andy Binder, with the Lincoln County sheriff’s office, says his department had two Humvees at one time, but found them to be unreliable and costly to maintain. He said that the department got rid of its Humvees a couple of years ago, but that getting someone else to take them was not easy.

O’Connell says the state will “expedite” retrieving the Humvees from Ferguson and will make them available to any department that wants them.

Tracking military equipment

Pentagon Spokesman Kevin Wright says there are two categories of equipment local law enforcement agencies may request from the Pentagon; uncontrolled and controlled equipment. He says 95-percent of the surplus property given away by the Pentagon falls in the uncontrolled category and includes such items as office furniture, shelves and communications equipment. Controlled items include M-16 rifles, Humvees and other vehicles, night vision goggles and “just about anything with a serial number.”

Wright says, that departments sign a memorandum of agreement as to how they will use and track requested equipment and while it is made available to departments, it is still under the control of the Defense Department in terms of inventory, tracking and disposal. He said, for example when a department decides it no longer needs a M-16 rifle, it is required to notify the Pentagon and that department will be told where to deliver the rifle for disposal. At that time Wright says, the serial number of the item will be listed as disposed and no longer available for use.

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