Police departments return military equipment

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — As part of the new guidelines from President Barack Obama that are designed to demilitarize police, some local departments have returned military surplus equipment like armored vehicles and grenade launchers to the federal government.

Barry County is one of the areas that returned their two tracked armored vehicles earlier this week. The county acquired them through a federal program that provides the military equipment to local police departments.

“When you get something from the military, you don’t get one or two, they send a whole bunch of them like we got some rifles, some shotguns. We did get some grenade launchers, but we use them for tear gas, and we did get some vehicles, a Hummer, we had two tracked vehicles at one time, and those are gone now,” said Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf.

Leaf said the tracked armored vehicles were more of a hassle than a help.

Barry County Sheriff's Department's armored vehicle and Humvee. (Nov. 20, 2015)
Barry County sheriff’s MRAP vehicle and Humvee. (Nov. 20, 2015)

“We really couldn’t use those on our roads. You would have to find a heavy-duty trailer, go take the trailer on out to the scene and then offload the tracked vehicle from there and we just didn’t have that equipment, plus it takes specialized training to drive it,” Leaf said.

However, the federal government plans to also take back the grenade launchers, but Leaf said that equipment has a purpose in their department and is used for tear gas.

“The tear gas is so handy for us because the closer we get to a hostile situation, the more likely somebody is going to get hurt. If we can use tear gas from 100 yards out, put it through somebody’s window in a hostile situation, everybody wins out of that,” said Leaf.

The county is allowed to keep their mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle that they obtained through the federal program, and Leaf said they will begin training deputies on how to use the vehicle next month.

“We plan on keeping the MRAP, that one is just so handy. We get a few barricaded gunmen calls a year and when you are talking barricaded gunmen, you have to think worst case scenario and officers going to that scene and when you go in there just with a regular patrol car, a shotgun slug will penetrate a patrol car. We wanted something so our guys could approach and have some cover and be able to handle that situation,” Leaf told 24 Hour News 8.

Leaf said the MRAP has no weaponry in it and is designed for defense.

Barry County Sheriff's MRAP vehicle. (Nov. 20, 2015)
Barry County sheriff’s MRAP vehicle. (Nov. 20, 2015)

“We’re not out here trying to bring the military into our streets. However, if we get an active shooter, we are expected to do something and I want my guys to go home safely and I want the whole neighborhood to be safe,” Leaf said.

Leaf said the recent attacks around the world are an example of why local police departments are in need of the military surplus equipment as well.

“When you start looking at the big picture, what is going on in your country, and now globally, and the threats that are coming to us, we have to be prepared. There is going to be no military here to take care of those situations. It will be your local law enforcement and we have to be prepared,” Leaf said.

Leaf said if they want to use tear gas in the future for emergency situations, the department will have to buy the equipment for around $2,500 because it will no longer be provided by the government. He also said the equipment does not work the same as the grenade launchers.

Right now, there isn’t an exact date on when the grenade launchers will have to be returned to the federal government.

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