Though they were past participants in a federal program to obtain excess protective gear, rifles and even an inflatable boat, law enforcement in Gainesville and Hall County have not received gear in recent years.
More than 8,000 law enforcement agencies have received gear through the Law Enforcement Support Office Program, known by the shorthand of the 1033 Program. In the wake of recent protests, many departments are under scrutiny for the use of military equipment.
“Requisitions cover the gamut of items used by America’s military -- clothing and office supplies, tools and rescue equipment, vehicles, rifles, and other small arms. Of all the excess equipment provided through the program, only 5% are small arms and less than 1% are tactical vehicles,” according to the Defense Logistics Agency.
According to 1033 Program inventory lists, Gainesville Police received M14 rifles in 2006 and M16 rifles in 2011. The Hall County Sheriff’s Office received M14 and M16 rifles between 2006 and 2008.
The most recently available inventory list updated March 31 did not show any further shipments to Gainesville Police or the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.
“The intent of the Sheriff’s Office was not to militarize our deputies, but to obtain useful surplus federal equipment at little to no cost for the agency and therefore the taxpayer,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Some of the items are for protection, such as helmets and gas masks.
“In addition to the equipment listed above, the Sheriff’s Office has received an inflatable boat, a spare boat engine, M1 Garand rifles and M16 rifles from the program. As it stands today, only a few of the items obtained through the program remain in service,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The M1 Garand rifles are used only by the Sheriff’s Office honor guard for funerals and parades.
Helmets have been used by criminal investigations division deputies in potentially dangerous situations.
“The remainder of the items have either been disposed of according to program guidelines or remain in secure storage for return to the government,” according to the Sheriff’ Office.
The National Defense Authorization Act allows the transfer of excess Department of Defense property to law enforcement agencies, gear “that might otherwise be destroyed,” according to the Defense Logistics Agency.
“No equipment is purchased for distribution. All items were excess which had been turned in by military units or had been held as part of reserve stocks until no longer needed,” according to the agency.
Roughly $293 million in property was transferred in fiscal year 2019.