Highway Patrol Ends Military Surplus Program

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Highway Patrol Ends Military Surplus Program

By Ben Hall. CREATED Aug 27, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Highway Patrol will no longer accept surplus military equipment through a controversial Department of Defense program.

THP Col. Tracy Trott told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that accounting problems have made the program more trouble than it is worth. That program is administered in Tennessee through the state's Law Enforcement Support Office

Trott said the Tennessee Highway Patrol has ordered military items that he considers useless. 

In 2009, the THP ordered 135 bayonets. Bayonets are knives attached to the end of guns that are used in hand to hand combat.

"We don't want to accept things or ask for things that we don't need or we're not going to use," Trott said.

But it was not just bayonets that upset Trott.

In 2008, the department ordered 240 "modular sleep systems," which are covered sleeping bags.

Trott described them as tents.

"They were getting all this junk, tents, bayonets, that I can't see any reasonable need for it," Trott said.

The THP claimed it no longer has the bayonets.

In a statement, a spokesperson said they were given to other law enforcement agencies and that the sleeping systems were donated to the boy scouts.

Trott said the highway patrol changed its rules for ordering equipment in 2009.

But just last year, there were more problems.

The department lost two M-14 assault rifles obtained through the program.

"We've had some internal problems accounting for some of the equipment, especially over long periods of time," Trott said.

State records show the highway patrol has ordered hundreds of items including 38 assault rifles, several humvees and a light-armored vehicle.

Trott said his department is getting rid of the humvees and will no longer accept any surplus military equipment.

"We've just decided it's not really worth the trouble to be honest with you," Trott said.

The police crackdown on protestors in Ferguson, Missouri has focused attention on the militarization of law enforcement.

The military allows law enforcement agencies to get all kinds of used military equipment at little or no cost.

They order on-line and must pick it up themselves.

Trott said the program's publicity is not why he's getting out.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Does it have anything to do with Ferguson?

"No, not really," the colonel answered. "Not at all. It's mainly just the accounting problems we have had internally."

A THP captain was forced to retire and a lieutenant was disciplined for lack of supervision over the program last year.

Trott said the THP received a helicopter which has been useful and remains in service.

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Ben Hall

Ben Hall

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Ben Hall is a veteran reporter at NewsChannel 5. He has covered the state legislature, presidential campaigns and is presently part of NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative unit.