Mimesis Law
28 April 2017

The 1033 Switcheroo: Old War Toys Replaced With New Ones

Jan. 21, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Law enforcement agencies across the country and their respective heads began a great wailing of tears and gnashing of teeth when President Obama signed an Executive Order taking away their war toys Armored Personnel Carriers.  Their fears proved unfounded, as the 1033 program’s continued existence means their “old and busted” APCs are being replaced with the “new hotness,” Mine Resistance Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs.

President Barack Obama’s decision perplexed Oakland County Sheriff Michael Borchard.

Less than a month after the federal government hauled away the county’s armored personnel carrier, on the premise it was too intimidating for domestic law enforcement, it awarded another armored personnel carrier, this one larger, newer and potentially more intimidating, the sheriff says.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Department and the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department are two among 10 police agencies nationwide selected to receive Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, which have been regularly used to transport troops in the Middle East.

Executive Order 13688, issued in May, 2015 as a result of the “paramilitary response” to protests in Ferguson following the death of Michael Brown, banned the sale of “tracked armored vehicles” to law enforcement agencies pursuant to the 1033 program, authorized under the National Defense Authorization Act.  It also required law enforcement agencies in possession of such vehicles to return them on pain of losing federal funding.

This upset many, who saw the loss of these vehicles as a threat to officer safety and the public.

Sheriff Paul Laney of Cass County, N.D., who also serves on the Board of the National Sheriffs’ Association, says that the anger is shared by sheriffs across the country.

“Sheriffs are very angry. It’s a tool in our toolbox being taken away from us based on perception. When we show up with a piece of equipment to save lives it can’t always look safe and cozy.”

The 1033 program, which allows for the sale of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies, wasn’t eliminated by Executive Order 13688. It just stopped the sale of certain items to local law enforcement (such as armored personnel carriers and grenade launchers), mandated their return, and limited the sale of other military equipment.

Law enforcement agencies can still buy war toys from the 1033 catalog. Certain items are simply no longer in stock.  While “tracked” Armored Personnel Carriers are no longer for sale, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle is on a “controlled” list since it has wheels.

Obama decided “tracked vehicles were too intimidating,” Bouchard says, but it was a “ready-shoot-aim” approach “based on perception, not reality.”

I’m completely in agreement with Sheriff Bouchard on this one, as a vehicle with “armored plating,” “blast resistant underbodies,” “layers of thick, armored glass,” and “runflat combat tires” looks and sounds just as intimidating as an armored personnel carrier used in Vietnam.

So what does your local Sheriff’s Department need to do to receive a new battle truck war wagon MRAP totally designed for officer safety and public protection?  You simply have to fill out a little extra paperwork, including a “Detailed” justification for acquiring the controlled equipment, including a clear and persuasive explanation of the need for the equipment and the appropriate law enforcement purpose that it will serve.”

Does “a sixteen hour standoff with a murder suspect armed with an AK-47 who fired dozens of rounds at deputies” will suffice as a detailed justification.  Regardless, it looks like many law enforcement agencies are keen on getting their very own MRAP, as fourteen Michigan police agencies have “expressed interest” in getting their hands on one. One wonders if recipients will experience “buyer’s remorse” as happened in Saginaw, Michigan, where Sheriff William Federspiel received a MRAP and then returned it because the vehicle required special training, special personnel to drive it, damaged roads due to weight, and required copious and costly amounts of fuel.

Where will all the old APCs go while law enforcement agencies get their shiny new MRAPs?

The armored personnel carriers from Michigan were trucked up Camp Grayling.

“They’re going to be destroyed,” Bouchard says, “which … is a big waste.”

Larry Goerge, who administers the 1033 grant program in Michigan, says they’ll be blown up by aircraft target practice.

The President’s Executive Order was signed in an effort to stop citizens feeling like police were an “occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community protecting and serving them.” It was a great first step, as community policing doesn’t justifiably require police possession or deployment of items such as armored personnel carriers, grenade launchers, or bayonets.

Yet swapping one intimidating vehicle out with another, larger vehicle solely on the basis of tracks versus tires is counterintuitive to the desire of eliminating a “warrior cop” mentality and returning to community policing.

Perhaps it’s time to abandon the 1033 program entirely, if we really want to restore public trust and make the police once more appear a part of the community. And no doubt those unloved MRAPs would look really cool getting blown up next to the APCs at Camp Grayling.

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