Saturday, February 28, 2015

But Chief Rizzo Wants an MRAP for Brunswick, Too

"I think it's important to remember that police are not soldiers and our towns are definitely not war zones." Alison Beyea, Executive Director of ACLU of Maine

The Forecaster reported "Brunswick council will screen police requests for surplus military equipment" (January 8, 2015), approximately seven years after Chief Rizzo had already been receiving such military equipment, and not reporting to the council (and perhaps not even the town managers), more than $120,000 worth of weapons and other gear [six 5.56 mm rifles, four 7.62 mm rifles, 16 high-tech sights, 16 night vision image intensifiers, and four laptop computers - according to Department of Defense's (DoD) Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) which operates the 1033 Program to transfer surplus military equipment to our local domestic law enforcement agencies].

From the same Forecaster article:

"Police Chief Richard Rizzo, who has run the department since 2008,...said he wasn't sure why (he) the department never brought its request to the council...And Rizzo said he wasn't sure if he told the town's previous two managers, Don Gerrish and Gary Brown, about the requisition applications."

Further saying, "I don't recall."

Also from the same article: "Under state law, elected town officials have to approve donations or 'conditional gifts' made to the town or its departments."

That said, John Eldridge had been Brunswick's Finance Director for 26 years prior to his current position as town manager; therefore, it's reasonable to believe Mr. Elridge has been aware of the $120,000 of military equipment transfers and the town possessed them. Moreover, Eldridge said, "...council review has been 'common practice'."

Some of the comments from the article include:

  • "So the Brunswick Town Council, which has been responsible for the squandering of taxpayer dollars on multiple real estate transactions (Times Record Building) and been unable value estimated construction costs (town offices), created neighborhood problems (Boat launch and train station), now needs to "approve" Police benefits that are "free"? I cannot think of a more asinine concept... While the acquisition of products should in some way be monitored and documented, perhaps with an approval option, our Town Counsel has demonstrated for decades that they are incapable of being effective, transparent, or efficient, in this type of capacity."

  • "Laptop computers and "rifles that were going to be purchased anyway" are hardly military equipment (unless you also count the toilet paper that the army purchases for its barracks). But their classification as such as they are acquired for Brunswick establishes a precedent. What is distinctive about military equipment is that it can cause mass destruction (inadvertently if you are just a weekend warrior). Now, in future our little town can acquire, (for example, as did police in Missouri) heavy armed vehicles with the justification that 'we have already accepted military equipment with town approval'." 

  • "According to BDN, Police Chief Richard Rizzo of Brunswick has been running the department since 2008 when it began receiving 1033 military equipment, and under Maine State law elected town officials have to approve donations or 'conditional gifts' to the town or its departments. Rizzo says he's not sure why his department never brought its requests to the council; and says 'I don't recall.' Therefore, it seems Chief Rizzo doesn't know the law, doesn't follow the law, and/or feels he's above the law. Since Rizzo says municipalities rely on their police chiefs to make good decisions, following the laws is one of them. Other commentors may have a better idea about the value of the equipment listed in the article, but $120,000 seems high. That said, Police Cmdr. Marc Hagan (saying he doesn't know why anyone would have a problem with the requests), municipalities and citizens need to be fully aware of 1033 equipment donations because in some places some of its gone missing from the inventory; namely assault rifles. And when asked about the missing 1033 equipment, some of the other Police Chiefs are also saying things like 'I don't know (where it is).', and 'I don't recall'."

It'd be difficult to hide an MRAP; best tell the people now:

The Town Council meeting scheduled for March 2, 2015, includes Item 19, which is a request by Chief Rizzo for a "Peacekeeping" Armored Vehicle (aka MRAP, "Mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle") for Brunswick's SWAT team, called "Special Response Team" (SRT). See "Astroturfing the Lexicon" (January 23, 2015).

The Agenda Packet information wants people to know the black 1989 MRAP looks more like this:
And less like this:

Rizzo doesn't state in his memo to the town manager why he declined an MRAP last year when it was "offered", but writes 7 out of 9 SRTs/SWATs have an MRAP, along with "...the majority of this nation's police departments...", and he wants one, too. (The State Police, Portland, South Portland, Cumberland County Sheriff, Sanford, York, and Bangor police departments have MRAPs; but not Brunswick, nor Augusta).

The now available Jeepers Creepers-looking MRAP is being returned to DLA by the Bloomington, Minnesota police department, supposedly because Bloomington PD is getting a newer version MRAP. The available MRAP had some carburetor issues and it was rebuilt; but the vehicle is believed to be operating, "generally in good condition" (according to Bloomington PD Sgt. Bitney who admits to not being a mechanic) and has no rust because it was kept indoors. No information is offered in the packet as to the expense of maintenance for an MRAP that's almost 30 years old, cost and availability of replacement parts, nor if there's any shipping costs for transporting the MRAP from Minnesota to Maine.

The justification for Brunswick possessing the MRAP, according to Police Cmdr./SRT, SWAT Cmdr. Hagan's memo, is Brunswick Police responded to 11 "high-risk" incidents in a 5-year period; 6 of the 11 were armed situations.

Given the history then, the MRAP will be used approximately once a year for projected allegedly-armed suspects in high-risk situations. Cmdr. Hagan goes on to write that unlawful use/possession of firearms in Brunswick is "prolific" and BPD has 108 firearms taken for safety and/or evidence in its possession; notably 26 of the 108 were possessed by 1 person. Hagan writes the militarization of police concerns by the public are only political and his concern is for "public safety", "terrorist activity, barricaded criminals, hostage situations, and other scenarios with high risk of violence".

Going back to one of The Forecaster comments above, there's a disturbing prediction: "Now, in future our little town can acquire, (for example, as did police in Missouri) heavy armed vehicles with the justification that 'we have already accepted military equipment with town approval'."

Apparently, bigger is better, and some local communities starting with the "unreliable", "Peacekeeper/MRAP, specially-designed armored superstructure" soon look to replace it:

"Morgan County Sheriff Robert Downey and Maj. Jerry Pickett, head of Johnson County SWAT, said if they had $300,000 to spend, they would prefer a commercial "BearCat" armored vehicle — such as what the IMPD has — instead of a military MRAP. The BearCat is smaller, lighter and faster. The MRAP can't exceed 65 mph. But they don't have that money. So they used military surplus.

In Johnson County, the sheriff's department had been using a 22-year-old armored 'Peacekeeper' vehicle from military surplus before it became unreliable. It's much smaller than the MRAP and looks its age. Cox said maintenance for the MRAP will come out of the jail's commissary fund.
 'I think us having (the MRAP) in that barn is much better than the federal government leaving it rusting on a cement slab somewhere in Texas or
Virginia or wherever these may be  sitting,' Cox said." 

("Overkill? Small-town buys armored SWAT vehicle")

Similarly, given Chief Rizzo and the Brunswick Police Department's pattern of behaviors, it appears highly probable they're engaged in a system of gradualism; creeping toward their ultimate goals. It's psychological - getting the peopled accustomed to the ideas, and seeing the militarization of police, is to gain familiarity and acceptance along with the misconception we are powerless to change it.

Reviewing all the above by Rizzo and Hagan, one would think the little New England town of Brunswick is a hotbed of crime and violence. Nothing could be further from the truth as evidenced by the information to follow.

"The (1033) program has been plagued by messy bookkeeping, bureaucratic confusion and scores of missing weapons."("Fusion Investigates: How did America's Police Departments Lose Loads of Military-issued Weapons?" )

According to the Fusion article 184 state and local police departments have been suspended for missing weapons or failure to comply with other guidelines. "(The Program) is obviously very sloppy, and it's another reason that Congress needs to revisit this promptly," said Tim Lynch, director of CATO Institute's project on criminal justice. "We don't know where these weapons are going, whether they are really lost, or whether there is corruption involved." Lynch goes on to say there's a "...possibility that some of the missing weapons...given to local police departments...are actually being sold on the black market."

Weapons from the 1033 Program are "misplaced", lost, or stolen; 145 local law enforcement departments and 3 states have been suspended from the Program: Alabama, North Carolina, and Minnesota ("Dozens of police agencies report loss of Pentagon-supplied military weapons" ).

It's not only weapons the go missing; there are at least 2 cases of missing Humvees and with about 200 departments "losing" military equipment the trend is alarming. "...Many fail to comply with (the) program guidelines (and) routinely lose dangerous weaponry." And about $4.3 billion in military equipment, including weapons, under the 1033 Program has been administered since 1990.

As far as getting data on the Pentagon equipment transfers to police, Muckrock ("Only Thirteen states refuse to release data on Pentagon equipment transfers to the public") asked the states directly: 6 states refused to release the data, 6 claimed not to have it, and Louisiana falls into a category of its own. More than half of the states released the spreadsheets so far. The 6 states refusing are: Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. The 6 states claiming to have no spreadsheets are: Alabama, Delaware, Maine, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wyoming. The state of Louisiana requested a fee of $5,000 for paper files.

Given the total items and controlling for population, it may be surprising that Maine ends up being one of the states using the 1033 Program more than others. "Using the FBI's 2012 violent crime rate per 100,000 people...and state's rank for crime and its items rank...while Maine's violent crime rate of 122.7 makes it the safest state in the union (ranked 51st when the District of Columbia is included), its items rank brings it to No. 11 on (the) list." Even FBI data, which Hagan mentions in his memo, shows Maine is the safest state in the union, contrary to what Chief Rizzo and Cmdr. Hagan want people to believe.

Retired USMC Colonel Pete Martino of New Hampshire warned the Concord local governing body about the militarization of local law enforcement with 1033 Program military equipment: We are pre-staging gear and equipment for a domestic military which is unconstitutional ("Posse Comitatus" )... the government is afraid of its own citizens. "Concord is just one cog in the wheel...We want more Mayberry and less Fallujah." 

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