Grand County law enforcement agencies receive excess military gear from feds
Recent events in Ferguson, Mo., have sparked a national debate about numerous issues related to race, policing standards and civil rights.
The protests and riots and the response from law enforcement has brought to a head previously simmering discussions regarding the militarization of local police forces.
The debate regarding the militarization of police and the need for military hardware is especially applicable to Grand County. The act of domestic terrorism committed by Marvin Heemeyer 10 years ago left local law enforcement scrambling for a solution to stop the rampage.
The Sky-Hi News requested information from Grand County law enforcement agencies as well as from the Department of Defense (DOD) regarding what types and quantities of military surplus gear have been transferred to Grand County.
Law enforcement in Grand County has a total of 13 military surplus items received from the federal government. This total was reported independently by the law enforcement agencies and the DOD.
According to Undersheriff John Stein the Grand County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) has a total of 11 assault rifles received from the federal government. This includes six M16s and five semi-automatic .308s. Undersheriff Stein explained the M16s owned by the department have been modified and no longer fire on fully automatic mode. They are now semi-automatic only.
Sheriff Rod Johnson also clarified rumors surrounding the GCSOs possession of Marvin Heemeyer’s .50 caliber gun.
According to Sheriff Johnson, the GCSO no longer has Heemeyer’s .50-cal rifle, which was a Barret Model 82 semi-automatic rifle. The rifle, according to multiple internet sources, has an effective range in excess of a mile.
The weapon, and all of Heemeyer’s other firearms confiscated after the dozer attack, were destroyed “approximately seven to eight months ago,” said Johnson.
The department did use the rifle previously for recreational target practice but the weapon has since been destroyed. Johnson said he allowed numerous county citizens and sheriff’s employees to fire the weapon during the target practice sessions.
The .50-caliber rifle was never in equipment rotation within the department and, according to Sheriff Johnson, could not have been used by the department in an emergency situation.
The weapon and four other firearms owned by Heemeyer were confiscated by the GCSO after the bulldozer attack on Granby in 2004. Because Heemeyer committed suicide in the incident there was no criminal investigation and therefore the firearms were not kept as evidence but were seized as a public nuisance.
According to Sheriff Johnson the GCSO was left with two options to dispose of the weapons: Either auction them off and give the proceeds to victims, or physically destroy the weapons.
Sheriff Johnson said he requested the court order for the weapons to be destroyed. According to Johnson the court order to destroy the weapons did not have a specific date for destruction. The weapons were destroyed using an acetylene cutting torch which renders them incapable of being put back together.
The Winter Park Police Department owns the other two pieces of military hardware transferred to Grand County from the DOD.
Chief Glen Trainor explained the department has both an M-14 (semi-automatic) that Trainor keeps, and one M-16 (fully automatic) the department received approximately three to four years ago.
Chief Trainor said neither of the rifles are in regular equipment rotation.
Chief Bill Housley of the Granby Police Department said the GPD has no surplus military hardware or weapons from the federal government and the department does not participate in the federal equipment transfer programs.
Chief Scott Spade of the Kremmling Police Department said his department does not have any surplus military hardware of any kind and the KPD does not participate in any federal equipment transfer programs.
The current federal program for the disbursement of excess military hardware to various law enforcement departments falls under the Depart of Defense’s 1033 Excess Property Program, which is administered by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA).
The program was first approved by Congress in the early 1990s and was officially named the 1033 program beginning in 1997.
The DLA provides information regarding types and quantities of offensive military equipment transferred through the 1033 program on a county-by-county basis and does not provide specifics on a department-by-department basis.
Other equipment available to local law enforcement agencies through the 1033 program includes but is not limited to: armored trucks, mine resistant vehicles, night vision equipment, .45 caliber semi-automatic pistols, explosive ordinance disposal robots and grenade launchers.
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