Florida Highway Patrol no longer able to get surplus military equipment

Posted at 8:05 PM, Nov 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-22 11:03:07-05

WASHINGTON -- The Florida Highway Patrol has been barred from receiving surplus gear from the military, Scripps News has learned.

The Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency suspended FHP from its equipment-sharing program on Oct. 10 after the highway patrol failed to account for the whereabouts of two military weapons.

FHP Lt. Thomas Pikul said two rifles had been stolen from locked patrol vehicles. Pikul was not able to immediately say where and when the thefts occurred, and whether anyone was ever charged.

FHP’s suspension from the equipment-sharing program prevents the agency from being eligible to receive a long list of decommissioned military items offered to law enforcement, including vehicles, helicopters, bomb-disposal robots, night vision goggles and medical tools. Police rely on the program to provide gear they otherwise could not afford.

FHP, responsible for patrolling almost 2 million miles of roadways in Florida, has not received any gear from the surplus program since 2014 when it received three mine-resistant vehicles, according to data provided by the Pentagon.

Much of the equipment transferred from the military to the highway patrol occurred between 2009 and 2011 when FHP got 1,815 rifles. The agency also has accepted pistol grips, gun sights and two armored vehicles, the data show.

More than 8,000 law enforcement agencies are eligible to receive surplus military equipment. The Pentagon automatically suspends any agency that reports a lost or stolen weapon, outlining steps that must be taken to again receive gear.

Pikul said FHP does not plan to request any more weapons from the military, but says the agency hopes to “continue its partnership in other programs” with the Pentagon’s office that shares equipment.

FHP is not the only Florida agency currently unable to receive surplus items. On Oct. 5, the Pentagon took the rare step of expelling the Miami Police Department from the program, permanently preventing the department from receiving excess gear. The Pentagon said Miami Police had failed to comply with program rules.

President Trump lifted a ban on transfers of tracked armored vehicles, bayonets and grenade launchers put in place after outcry over scenes of police in military vehicles rolling down the streets of Ferguson, Mo., during protests over an officer killing an unarmed black man.