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Michigan counties must return military surplus vehicles


Some Michigan county law enforcement agencies must return surplus military gear to the US government, and they’re not happy about it.

Macomb County is one of three in Michigan to get an armored personnel carrier through a former federal program that transferred unneeded war gear from federal to state and local agencies.

But amidst growing concerns about militarized policing, President Obama curbed the transfer of weapons to local police, and ordered some returned.

That means Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties will have to return the tank-like vehicles they got as part of those programs.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel calls that “non-sensical” and “asinine.”

Hackel says those armored vehicles have proven useful in certain high-risk situations, such as domestic disputes and hostage situations with a barricaded gunman.

In those situations, “You really don’t know what kind of weaponry you’re dealing with,” Hackel says. “And now they’re really putting us in harm’s way.”

Hackel says the county will now have to purchase another, similar vehicle, but this time, it will come at county taxpayer expense.

“I think it’s just a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars, when in the end they’re going to get the same thing,” he says. “And that’s the only reason we’ve been given as to why they’re doing this,  to de-militarize law enforcement agencies, so they don’t look militaristic when they’re going into these high-profile situations. They’re being taken because of an image issue, a perception issue.”

Oakland County sheriff Michael Bouchard has been similarly outspoken about the recall.He called it “government overreach…[that’s] going to leave communities at risk.” 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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