Small-town police departments across the U.S. have taken tons of equipment discarded by a downsizing military, including bicycles, bed sheets, bowling pins, French horns, dog collars, and a colonoscopy machine, regardless of whether the items are needed or will ever be used, the Associated Press reports. In the tiny farming town of Morven, Ga., the police chief grabbed three boats, scuba gear, rescue rafts, and a couple of dozen life preservers. The town’s deepest body of water: an ankle-deep creek. An AP investigation of the Defense Department program, aimed at helping local law enforcement fight terrorism and drug trafficking, found that a big share of the $4.2 billion worth of property distributed since 1990 has been obtained by police departments and sheriff’s offices in rural areas with few officers and little crime.
The national giveaway operates with scant oversight, and the surplus military gear often sits in storage. Morven Police Chief Lynwood Yates acquired a decontamination machine originally worth $200,000 for the 700-population city. The high-tech gadget is missing most of its parts and would need $100,000 worth of repairs. He also received a shipment of bayonets, which have never made it out of storage. “That was one of those things in the old days you got it because you thought it was cool,” Yates said of his bayonets. “Then, after you get it, you’re like, ‘What the hell am I going to do with this?’ “