The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

August 1, 2013

Giveaways going wild

MORVEN, Ga. — Small-town police departments across the country have been gobbling up tons of equipment discarded by a downsizing military — bicycles, bed sheets, bowling pins, French horns, dog collars, even a colonoscopy machine — regardless of whether the items are needed or will ever be used.

In the tiny farming community of Morven, Ga., the police chief has grabbed three boats, scuba gear, rescue rafts and a couple of dozen life preservers. The town’s deepest body of water: an ankle-deep creek.

An Associated Press investigation of the Defense Department program, originally aimed at helping local law enforcement fight terrorism and drug trafficking, found that a disproportionate share of the $4.2 billion worth of property distributed since 1990 has been obtained by police departments and sheriff’s offices in rural areas with few officers and little crime.

The national giveaway program operates with scant oversight, and the surplus military gear often sits in storage, the AP found.

Using a series of public records requests, the AP obtained thousands of pages of emails and other documents related to the program locally and nationally. The documents, along with interviews with participants and regulators, reveal that staffing shortages and budget constraints have made it difficult for federal and state program officials to keep track of all of the property.

Requests for equipment are reviewed, but the process hasn’t stopped many overly aggressive departments from grabbing property that could be better used by other communities with a greater need.

For many, the opportunity to amass a vast array of gear with few strings attached has proven to be too tempting to pass up.

Morven Police Chief Lynwood Yates, for example, has acquired a decontamination machine originally worth $200,000 for his community of about 700 residents, and two additional full-time officers. The high-tech gadget is missing most of its parts and would need $100,000 of repairs.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • Documents detail another delayed GM recall for failed power steering

    DETROIT — General Motors waited years to recall nearly 335,000 Saturn Ions for power steering failures despite getting thousands of consumer complaints and more than 30,000 warranty repair claims, according to government documents released ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Landslide devouring part of Wyoming town

    JACKSON, Wyo. — A slow-motion disaster continued unfolding in the Wyoming resort town of Jackson on Saturday, as a creeping landslide that split a hillside home threatened to swallow up more houses and businesses. The ground beneath the ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Questions about missing Malaysian plane answered

    Travelers at Asian airports have asked questions about the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Here are some of them, followed by answers. Samuel Rogers is a 20-year-old ...

    April 20, 2014

  • NASA’s space station Robonaut finally getting legs

    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs....

    April 20, 2014

  • Hostage French journalists in Syria freed

    PARIS — Four French journalists held hostage in Syria for 10 months have been released, officials said Saturday, the latest batch of reporters to be freed in what has become the world’s deadliest conflict for the media....

    April 20, 2014

  • 13th body found in Everest avalanche

    KATMANDU, Nepal — Search teams recovered a 13th body Saturday from the snow and ice covering a dangerous climbing pass on Mount Everest, where an avalanche a day earlier swept over a group of Sherpa guides Another three guides remained ...

    April 20, 2014

  • Autopsy to ID dead boy; body cast off side of road

    WORCESTER, Mass. — All Massachusetts authorities could say for sure is that they found the lifeless body of a small boy, apparently cast off the side of a highway....

    April 20, 2014

  • Study: Half of jailed youths have injury

    NEW YORK — About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City’s jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that’s the latest in a growing body of ...

    April 19, 2014

  • Senate to debate rideshare regulations

    PHOENIX — Among the major issues left to cover at the Arizona Legislature before the session ends is how to regulate the increasingly popular ridesharing programs like Uber and Lyft. The contentious debate has pitted traditional taxi ...

    April 19, 2014

  • Quake shakes Mexican capital

    ACAPULCO, Mexico — A powerful magnitude-7.2 earthquake shook central and southern Mexico on Friday, sending panicked people into the streets. Some walls cracked and fell, but there were no reports of major damage or casualties....

    April 19, 2014