Arizona public safety agencies have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal money on equipment they are not certified to use or for projects with only a tenuous link to homeland security, reports the Arizona Republic. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, police and fire departments statewide shored up budget shortfalls and bought things like ATVs, Q-Tips, and $50,000 worth of binoculars with nearly $178 million in Homeland Security Department grants. Many local officials managed did apply the money toward security priorities: shoring up communications, buying better protective gear for police and firefighters, and purchasing mobile command centers for emergencies.
An Arizona Republic review of records and receipts found that some local governments made questionable purchases under the guise of homeland security, including $38 leather wallets for all Capitol Police officers and a $47 hat badge for the police chief. Many small cities and towns that are unlikely targets for a terrorist attack received disproportionate amounts of money, often more per capita than Phoenix, Tucson, or Mesa. For example, Gila County spent $93,000 to rent planes, snowmobiles, and a horse to create more accurate assessor maps. Meanwhile, local law enforcement went without protective masks because it was too expensive to certify them. Frank Navarrette, Arizona’s emergency management director, said that each agency wanted “their own red firetruck in their own driveway, and they each wanted their own bomb squad.”