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Militarized local police? Hard to find information

Militarization of local police departments has become a hot topic due to recent events in Ferguson, Mo., that has lead to a military response to demonstrators in Ferguson by local police forces.

The controversy stems from a federal policy called the 1033 Military Surplus Property Program. The 1033 program allows the Pentagon to send excess military equipment to states upon the requests of their county police departments.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Safety (GDPS) Georgia has received $200 million worth of military equipment since the birth of the 1033 program.

In light of these developments, the first thing that should naturally come to the mind of Fayette County citizens is if their police department is an active participant in the 1033 program.

To find an answer to this question most would think that you should be able contact the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office and ask. Unfortunately doing so would likely result in an “I don’t know” from whoever answers the phone.

The next plausible step would be to look through available online county records. If we look through the Fayette County Operation and Capital budget of 2014 there is a notice on page 76 which states that it “does not pertain to ... property obtained through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s 1033 Excess Property Program.” That little tidbit of information indirectly lets us know that Fayette County actually does participate in the 1033 program.

What is really concerning about this is that this shred of information hidden in the depths of the Fayette County budget is literally the only county document accessible to the public that ever alludes to the 1033 program.

In Fayette County, filling out an application for “open access” to public records at the police department is synonymous with writing down your email and a brief description of what your looking for in the hopes that someone will email it to you.

According to an email from Captain Charles R. Cowart of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, “We have no 1033 documents on file.” The story is the same at the Justice Center and County Administration offices; both claim to not have any accessible records on the sheriff’s department’s assets.

Fortunately, a Freedom of Information Act request by the New York Times has produced an accessible online listing of all military equipment distributed to counties through the 1033 program. The list shows that Fayette County has received four military 5.56 millimeter rifles and one truck/tank worth almost $90,000.

Hopefully the sheriff’s department finds some sort of documentation pertaining to the military equipment; at this point an instruction manual would suffice. Since public records on the 1033 program in Fayette County don’t exist, it means that the applications that the department was obligated to submit in order to receive four military rifles and a tank aren’t on county public records.

This completely eliminates any possibility of public oversight pertaining to participation in the 1033 program. What if the county needed more equipment for the safety of the public and the department wasn’t adequately fulfilling its duty in applying for them? What if the department has applied for too much equipment and it became harmful to the public? Who answers then?

I don’t think we should wait to see.

Yosef Shelbayah
Fayetteville, Ga.



Yosef, got a hot tip for you: Sheriff Babb knows his stuff and will do what he has to do to make sure his officers don't go out every day to face the criminal element underpowered. Don't know how long you've been in Fayette County but clearly you have no clue as to how Metro criminals arm themselves. And YOU can buy an AR-15 if you have the $$$ and can pass the background check. As for the heavy equip--why would you turn down a vehicle for unexpected or unusual emergency situations? Why would you not trust Sheriff Babb's judgement to do what's best for the protection of Fayette County citizens? I applaud him for getting equip at no cost to we taxpayers. And he'll make sure YOU'RE SAFE, wherever you live--unless you turn naughty and step over the line! Then he'll make sure your whiny azz gets an inside view of the Fayette County Jail!

As a law abiding citizen, I have no problem with our local law enforcement taking advantage of this second hand military equipment.

I think its a good idea that our law enforcement arrive with superior fire power.

For once, we are in total agreement about something!

And we are hear to help you!

brewster's picture

Never send a human to do a machine's job

and Molotov cocktails, etc., are our police and/or nat'l guard supposed to stand there with a bouquet of flowers as they are attacked! Maybe many do not consider it a war zone when so called 'innocent citizens' who are brought in to incite riot are attacking-but I consider it a war zone. And how neutral are the people in authority who are sent in to restore peace and end up marching with the dissenters and take their sides? I would say rather one-sided, wouldn't you?

Never take a knife to a gun fight.

I hope each of our local LEO's have items in their arsenal to fight.

I've lived in Fayette for over a decade, moved here from Clayton. Clayton is a an example of overly militarized police forces, Fayette is not and I am thankful for that. However, we could be under militarized as some commenters here have suggested. The problem is that there is no county public records for us to keep track of what our department applies for. I trust Barry to make the right decisions but I can't say that with confidence for the sheriff after him or the one after that.

This isn't a slam piece about our Sheriff's department, this is a request for transparency in the name of liberty and safety for all.

I believe the "Tank" you talk about is the large fuel truck that sits back by the landing pad behind the Sheriff's Office, for the helicopter. If you drive by there you can see it.

"The best way to become boring is to say everything" Voltaire

Yes I am, According to Sherrif Babb we're trying to get rid of it. State records list our fuel tank as literally "Truck,Tank".

one tank. Shucks, with the right to carry law, there is probably much heavier fire power in our local restaurants and malls right now. If we feel the need we can always assembly this 'militia' as guaranteed by the constitution.

Yosef just might be more worried about one of those officers checking on his immigration status than what firearm he's got available!

1st generation born and raised American here! My parents are originally Egyptian. Now the officers don't have to waste time investigating.

Also Read my response above, this isn't a slam piece it's a request for transparency in the name of liberty and safety for all. Our forces could very well be under militarized, unfortunately we have to dig under layers of bureaucracy to find that out.

American version is Joseph--you are just being a bad boy!

Not too worried--I've been called worse! Hey,when one makes public cmt, one is subject to public criticism!


PTC Observer's picture

The fact is we have a responsibility to protect our police as well as our property. We cannot expect them to standby and be targets of armed rioters. Let's hope that this never happens in our fine communities across Fayette County but we would be negligent if we let our police face armed crowds and criminals without the right tools.

Everyone that reads these pages knows how I am against increasing government power but it is the proper role of government to protect life, freedom and property. We need to make certain that our enforcement teams have the best resources available to keep the peace in our communities.

Read my responses bellow, this isn't a slam piece it's a request for transparency in the name of liberty and safety for all.

PTC Observer's picture

Mr. Shelbayah what is your concern, that we have too much military equipment or not enough? What makes you think by knowing the information you want that you could make a judgment? Are you trained in some way in police work? In crowd control?

What exactly is your concern if any concerning the M16A2 5.56mm Semiautomatic Rifles that have been delivered to the Fayette County? That it uses NATO rounds? Here?__s information on this weapon, I have used this weapon and it is excellent for returning covering fire using 30 round clips.

I don?__t have any problem with your request for transparency but it seems you have the information you wanted. That is, what military equipment has the county received through this program?

Here's more information on the 5.56mm Rifles that are turned over to our Law Enforcement.

I have no problems with the military equipment we currently have, I have a problem with the fact that applications and documentation for said equipment is not on county record. I trust sheriff Babb to make the right decisions of course but I can not say that with confidence about those who will come into power after him which is why it's important to maintain transparency.

I am not trained in police work nor do I claim to be a weapons expert. However there are many in the public who are and I support any initiative that bolsters public oversight in the name of liberty and protecting the constitution.

PTC Observer's picture

I agree that things should be transparent, but I think you found the information didn't you? What is your proposal for a solution to this issue? You want the county website to list the equipment, when it was acquired, etc?

If so, show up at the Commission meeting or run by Sheriff Babb's office and let him know. You have nothing to fear in this request, it appears reasonable to this reader.

Sounds to me more like Yosef seeks Watchdog/Gatekeeper status--and there are certain things the Public does not need to know--why should we let the criminal element know what they might face in a situation? That doesn't seem too smart to me.And don't tell me it may serve as a deterrent--the real bad guys don't back away from confrontation! I say keep out of Sheriff Babb's business and the future will be taken care of by we voters.

PTC Observer's picture

to every coin, it's true. You could make the argument that the criminals would go somewhere else that's easier. Anyway, I don't much care either way, just putting in my two cents. When riots happen it is a well armed citizenry that will control it if the police can't. Self defense is always an option.

What I'm saying is that Yosef's issue is basically "much ado about not much!"

PTC Observer's picture

I agree, he got the information he wants and somehow believes he can't get it.

As of right now, future applications and documentation of military equipment don't have to be on public record.

Does it not bother you that nothing pertaining to the 1033 program is or ever has to be listed in county public records?

In response to you're contention that the public doesn't need to know what military equipment local forces receive from our oh so "trustworthy and efficient" federal government because someone could be a criminal; I would ask you are people who come into power inherently free from characters of criminality? If your answer is yes, I'd advise you to read a history book. Sometimes the wrong people get into power, that's just the truth. In the case that ever happens the only way to know if the public's best interests is being served is to protect and promote transparency.

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." -James Madison.

Sounds like a great Idea! I have made similar requests to no avail hence the Op-ed. I appreciate your input.

In LA , years ago, bank robbers had weapons that were superior to the weapons that law enforcement had on the street. The citizens in LA supported law enforcement being equipped to handle the job.

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