WASHINGTON — Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work expressed shock today upon learning that the nearly $4.3 billion of military equipment given free of charge to local police forces since 1996 was being used by those police forces against American citizens.
“We honestly had no idea,” said Work. “They told us they were just collecting them like Pokémon cards or Star Wars figures. They never said anything about actually using them. Obviously if we’d known, we never would have just handed them a mine-resistant, ambush-protected armored vehicle,” also called an MRAP vehicle. “Those things are dangerous!”
The issue has come to light after tensions escalated in Ferguson, Mo., between law enforcement and protesting citizens over the shooting by police of unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown. Since Saturday’s shooting, the police force has patrolled the streets in armored vehicles, such as MRAPs, while wearing Marine-issued camouflage and military-grade body armor and carrying military-style assault rifles.
“When I first saw the pictures [of the police in Ferguson wearing military armor], I assumed this was in Afghanistan or the Ukraine or something,” admitted Work. “When one of my aides mentioned this was Missouri, I was like, WHAT?”
“We really have egg on our faces right now,” said Vice Admiral Mark Harnitchek, Director of the Defense Logistics Agency, which oversees the distribution of military surplus to local police forces. “All this time we believed that all these police forces were building big museums. We should have known. I mean how many grenade launchers do you really need for a museum display?”
Harnitchek was referring to the revelation that police in the town of Bloomington, Ga., population 2,713, acquired four grenade launchers from the Department of Defense through the program.
Moving forward, Director Harnitchek promises far more scrutiny over requests coming in to his department for military-grade equipment. “If they come here asking for an armored vehicle designed to protect soldiers from roadside bombs, they need to show evidence they’ve either been attacked by roadside bombs in the past or live in an area where it is conceivable that residents would plant roadside bombs in the first place. Like near a college or perhaps a YMCA.”