SUNY campuses acquire excess military equipment
Oct 16, 2014
Three SUNY campuses were the recipients of military weapons and vehicles, along with the Albany Police Department and the Albany County Sheriffs Department, as part of a governmental program.
SUNY Old Westbury, SUNY Morrisville, and SUNY Oneonta’s campus police departments received M16A1 rifles, M14 rifles, and armored trucks between April 2011 and Aug. 2012.
These acquisitions were made using the government’s 1033 Program, which transfers excess military equipment to local governmental agencies upon request.
SUNY Morrisville and SUNY Old Westbury each received three M14 rifles and one utility truck, while SUNY Oneonta received three M16 rifles and one utility truck.
Last week, an inventory detailing all of the equipment obtained by New York law enforcement agencies was released, the first of its kind. This data was obtained using the Freedom of Information Act by Shawn Musgrave, and was published on the collaborative news website Muckrock.
The 1033 Program, which was instituted in 1997, recently came under scrutiny when police in full armor, atop military-grade vehicles, clashed with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. Opponents to the 1033 Program say that it militarizes local law enforcement.
“University Police at SUNY Oneonta originally applied for the 1033 Program in 2011,” said SUNY Oneonta’s Chief of Police Daniel Chambers in an email. “The original application was for one vehicle and the [three] rifles.”
“The original program application states that the weapons could be used for “active shooter” situations but these weapons have not been put into service for those types of situations – we have only taken these weapons out of our armory for ceremonial occasions.”
According to the Chief of Police at SUNY Old Westbury Michael Yanniello, each SUNY requested the equipment individually.
“We were in the process of initializing a patrol rifle program. It was an economic decision to get [the rifles], essentially for nothing,” Yanniello said in a phone interview, explaining that the university only had to pay the cost of shipping to acquire the rifles.
SUNY Oneonta paid for personnel to pick up the vehicle from Fort Drumm, and they paid for the shipping cost of the M-14’s, which Chambers reported cost in total less than $80.00.
Yanniello said Old Westbury currently uses the rifles in training, and that like Oneonta, they would be used to respond to a violent active-shooter situation.
The officers at Old Westbury had to go through an additional three-day training course to become qualified in handling the weapons, which has to be renewed annually. The supervisor at SUNY Oneonta had to go through an additional two-day training session for the “administrative overview of the program,” according to Chambers.
Officials at SUNY Morrisville were not immediately available for comment.
In addition to these three SUNY’s acquiring equipment through this program, local Albany agencies have also used the 1033 Program.
The Albany County Sheriff’s Department received 11 M16A1 rifles, 20 M14 rifles, three utility trucks, and one mine resistant vehicle, totaling $747,835 in value. The Albany Police Department received one utility truck, worth $55,500. The equipment was received between Dec. 2010, and Sept. 2013.
The New York Times reported in late August that President Obama ordered a review of the 1033 Program, in light of the violence in Ferguson. Also, in early September, the Senate questioned officials in the Defense Department during a hearing regarding the program.
The 1033 Program is run by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Since the program was instituted, over $5.1 billion worth of excess Department of Defense property has been transferred to law enforcement agencies around the country, according to the DLA website. This figure is based on the price of what it cost initially to buy the equipment.
Over 8,000 law enforcement agencies in 50 states participate in the program, including federal, tribal, state, and local agencies. Agencies must be approved to participate in the program, and can then make requests for specific items online.
According to the DLA website, the equipment that is distributed is excess in the Department of Defense. It is either “turned in by military units or had been held as part of reserve stocks.” Also according to the site, only five percent of the distributed equipment falls under the category of weapons, while the rest of it is clothing, office supplies, and rescue tools.