The federal government, under orders from President Barack Obama, seized military surplus vehicles from Calhoun County, Alabama Sheriff Larry Amerson Wednesday.
For over 20 years, under the federal government’s 10-33 program, the Defense Department distributed military surplus equipment and vehicles to local law enforcement, such as the Calhoun County sheriff’s department.
However, following the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore over law enforcement shootings, Obama recalled military equipment and gear through an executive order. All vehicles from the program that were deemed too “militaristic looking” were to be confiscated from local law enforcement all over the country.
Equipment on the federal government’s prohibited list are tracked armored vehicles; weaponized aircraft, vessels and vehicles; .50-caliber firearms and ammunition; bayonets; camouflage uniforms and grenade launchers.
“Of those items, LESO [Law Enforcement Support Office] has only transferred excess tracked armored vehicles, grenade launchers and bayonets to authorized LEAs [Law Enforcement Agencies],” a spokeswoman for the U.S. Military’s Defense Logistics Agency told The Daily Caller.
“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people the feeling like there’s an occupying force — as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said in May. He added that the equipment “can alienate and intimidate residents and make them feel scared.”
Sheriff Amerson returned 10-33 vehicles, which were first obtained after a mentally ill person shot three Anniston police officers in 2001 and other officers had no protection to remove the injured from the area, a statement from the sheriff’s office said.
The tracked armored vehicles were used during the 2011 shooting of Anniston police officer Justin Sollohub and law enforcement found the shooter in a wooded area. The vehicle was also used in a search last September, as well as for transportation needs during ice storms, the sheriff’s office said.
Other sheriff’s offices are speaking up about the government confiscating their equipment.
“Without this equipment, people will die in the future,” the Volusia County, Florida Sheriff’s office wrote on its Facebook page. “It’s that simple. Lives will be lost unnecessarily. Let’s not take away needed tools from our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day to protect the public. Let’s not make their jobs any harder or any more dangerous. And let’s not hamstring law enforcement officers in their ability to effectively respond to emergencies, neutralize threats and protect the public and themselves!”
Sheriff Michael Bouchard of Oakland County, Michigan, a member of the Major County Sheriffs Association, told The Daily Caller last month that the Obama administration’s new regulations leave many rural sheriffs without vehicles necessary to handle harsh terrain.
“Our belief is that [the administration] thinks they look to militaristic because it has treads, not wheels,” Bouchard said.
“A lot of rural sheriffs that have deserts or cold, deep snow areas. One of the vehicles they use for rescue or for emergency operations are tracked vehicles,” Bouchard said. “It is the only vehicle that can traverse the terrain whether it happens to be in an incredibly deep sand or incredibly deep snow. Well, the president decided that tracked vehicles look to militaristic. So they are not allowed.”
“Today is a sad and frustrating day at the Sheriff’s office. The federal government, the U.S. military, is withdrawing a piece of equipment we found extremely valuable for our purposes and that is a tracked armored vehicle,” Amerson said. “Tracked armored vehicles are defensive in nature. They have no offensive capabilities. This decision by our commander in chief, I don’t agree with it. This is the nation we live in. We are a nation of laws and we follow those laws.”
Amerson says he contacted Alabama Republican Rep. [crscore]Mike Rogers[/crscore] and received assurance from Rogers that language will be introduced in the next funding bill that would allow local law enforcement to have the vehicles the government is seizing.
This article was updated.