On the day a heavily armed couple fatally shot 14 people and wounded 20 others in San Bernardino, Ca., last month, Detroit-area Sheriff Michael Bouchard got an order to return his department's 14-ton armored personnel carrier to the federal government. It was one of hundreds of notifications from the Obama administration to law enforcement agencies across the U.S. to give back an array of federal surplus military equipment by April 1, in response to concerns that the equipment was unnecessary and misused, the New York Times reports. The items to be returned included armored vehicles that run on tracks, .50-caliber machine guns, grenade launchers, bayonets and camouflage clothing.
Most of the agencies are complying without complaint. To Sheriff Bouchard and some other suburban and rural sheriffs, the orders were an infuriating, leaving local officials without critical tools in an age of heightened fears about terrorism and mass shootings. “This isn't Mayberry, where a guy goes and locks himself in jail because he got drunk,” said Bouchard said, describing Oakland County, Mi., where he has been the sheriff since 1999. “There are guys who walk up to you and fire off 13 rounds in a couple of seconds.” The Pentagon said local agencies that had been ordered to return tracked armored vehicles would get priority in receiving similar vehicles, including Humvees and MRAPs, which can withstand roadside bombs. Rural sheriffs say tracked vehicles can climb steep hills and travel along unpaved roads, a significant advantage over other vehicles. The bulk of the $5 billion worth of equipment given out since 1990 are conventional items, including boots, tents, flashlights and file cabinets, that have not been recalled.