By Christie Duffy
Alabama, North Carolina and Minnesota are listed as suspended.
One hundred forty-five local police departments are also on the list. From California to Florida, Massachusetts and right here in New Jersey. Across the country there are police departments deemed non-compliant with the terms of the military gear program.
Locally, Linden and Roxbury police were suspended this year. They say West Paterson, otherwise known as Woodland Park, was placed on the list in 2012. Stafford is on it as of 2010.
“While the news of the suspension of four of our towns in this federal program might give some comfort to indicate that there is some level of oversight by the Department of Defense, I think it raises more questions than it answers. What we don’t know is whether or not these towns and whether the state of New Jersey is really doing an adequate job of keeping track of how and where and when this technology and these military tactics are being deployed,” said ACLU-NJ Public Policy Director Ari Rosmarin.
“I wasn’t even aware that we were suspended. Two possibilities are that we’ve been very inactive. We haven’t participated in the program in about 20 years. I understand that the agency was also doing an audit and through the audit they suspended a number of agencies,” said Linden Police Chief James Schulhafer.
The chief says Linden is looking to re-enter the program. They’re seeking a generator for their new emergency management building. The chief says no weapons or heavy duty vehicles have been obtained.
Schulhafer said he doesn’t believe there has been misuse or lost equipment. “We’re very limited to what we’ve taken in the past. As I said it was just one vehicle and some office equipment. And once they served their useful life, they were disposed of and then we notified the agency of what happened to equipment. So certainly not on our end there wasn’t any misuse of it,” he said.
Stafford and Roxbury say they have received rifles, clothing and generators under the program.
Roxbury says when an officer tasked with the program retired, they let the program go by the wayside, but they still participate in the checks and balances of the program.
Stafford Township says they expect to be back in compliance soon. They believe they were suspended due to miscommunication when the program switched from paper to the internet. Our calls to Woodland Park were not returned today.
The Attorney General’s Office has said that there have been no allegations of misuse of equipment shipped to police here in New Jersey.
The state is working on our request for an interview and for more information about their oversight of the program.