The Johnson City Police Department is the only agency in Tennessee to voluntarily return one of the military surplus items banned by President Obama back in May.
After holding on to an armored personnel carrier (APC) for 13 years Johnson City returned the vehicle in June.
“Equipment that we do not need, we have turned it back in,” JCPD Maj. Garry Younger said. “There’s no need to obtain equipment that just sits around, just to have it. There’s no need for that. That’s not what we do and that’s not part of our mission.”
JCPD Chief Mark Sirois previously told us the agency already planned on returning its vehicle before the president banned the future police use of APCs. After all, JCPD still has a mine resistant military surplus vehicle that can serve the same purpose of rescuing police or citizens in an active shooter situation. Not only that, the MRAP has tires, not tracks so it doesn’t look like a tank coming down the street.
“There was just not a need for it and currently today that’s a piece of equipment that you cannot acquire,” Maj. Younger said. “We could have kept it and been grandfathered, but (the MRAP) is a much more practical piece of equipment for us.”
According to public records, 10 other agencies across Tennessee, including the Greeneville Police Department and Hawkins County Sheriff’s Department, still have APCs.
“At this point, the items mentioned in the executive order are no longer being dispersed to agencies, but the federal government has not yet made a decision whether to request agencies that were previously issued this equipment to return it,” Tennessee Department of General Services Communications Director David Roberson said. “We don’t know of a timetable for the federal government to make a decision on this subject.”
Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson says not only does his department have an APC, but it also has an MRAP and he says he intends to keep both for officer safety and public protection and safety.
“I’m keeping both, as one could be mechanically down when an emergency arises,” the sheriff said. “I will utilize the MRAP first in case of emergency. I believe it better to have them and not need them, then to need them and not have them.”
A spokesperson for the Greeneville Police Department said GPD also intends to hold on to its APC.
“We plan to keep it, and we use it in SWAT operations,” Amy Rose said.
According to Roberson, although no other departments have voluntarily returned banned items, which include bayonets, “several are awaiting announcement of procedures for doing so.”
A review of military surplus data in Tennessee revealed Tri-Cities police and sheriff’s departments have more military surplus items today than they did in 2014. According to public records, the number of military hand-me-downs in Northeast Tennessee has increased by 34% since last October.
While some agencies collected more items JCPD unloaded some of its military gear in addition to the APC. Maj. Younger says the agency is constantly reviewing all of its items to see if the agency really needs them.
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