Police officials in Westwood, Ma., who proposed creating a special response team in 2002 pledged to state officials that they would use $75,000 in grant money to buy a global positioning system, breaching tools, weapons, munitions, helmets, “civil disturbance protective gear,” and other equipment, the Boston Globe reports.
Instead, the department used some of the money to buy sweatpants and hooded sweatshirts, T-shirts; baseball caps, shorts, and polo shirts, many with the department’s logo. The clothes, which cost more than $13,000, were paid for with federal money that is to be used for innovative approaches to public safety.
The Westwood department also used almost $35,000 for 133 top-of-the-line duty jackets and 133 high-visibility vests, paying extra for embroidered logos and patches. The global positioning system and most other items listed on the grant application were never purchased.
Use of that money for purposes other than those listed on the grant apparently violates the rules of the state Executive Office of Public Safety, which administered the grant for the U.S. Department of Justice.
Christine Cole, deputy chief of staff at the Executive Office of Public Safety, defended the purchases, saying the clothing could be used for “outfitting police officers coming from various police departments to be part of a rapid response team.” Asked if the officers would wear shorts or sweatsuits when responding to a call, Cole said, “Perhaps not.” She said the clothing expenditures “were consistent with the intent of the grant — to establish a regional rapid response team — and this expenditure enabled all members of the team to be outfitted uniformly. The expenditures were also allowable under relevant federal grant guidelines.”
The Westwood grant was one of several that caused concern last year among employees at the Executive Office of Public Safety. They notified the FBI, which is probing grants distributed by the agency.