Feds Donate Thousands of Bayonets to Local Police

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Since 2006, the Department of Defense has donated 11,959 bayonets to domestic law enforcement agencies.

 By Barry Donegan @ Ben Swann

The recent political crisis in Ferguson, MO put a national spotlight on police militarization. For years, the Department of Defense has been sending military hardware, leftover from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, to local police through its 1033 program. Police departments have been accepting the military-grade hardware, despite its uselessness for purposes of civilian police work, under “what if” justifications. However, after obtaining the items, officials in charge of local police forces have often expanded the scenarios in which military tools are being put to use, resulting in militarized approaches to drug raids and peaceful protests.

NPR recently published an in-depth report on the Department of Defense’s 1033 program, cataloging every military item sent to law enforcement agencies from 2006 through April 23, 2014. Vox pointed out the fact that the cache of weapons donated to local cops included 11,959 bayonets. A bayonet is a spear-like weapon affixed to the end of a rifle that soldiers use as a last resort to gut enemies in close range. While this type of weapon could prove useful on a battlefield, it seems highly unlikely that a police officer could find a justified civilian law enforcement purpose for such a brutal offensive weapon.

The report also noted that 79,288 assault rifles, 205 grenade launchers, 3,972 combat knives, 50 airplanes, and 422 helicopters had been issued to police by April of this year. It is also worth noting that large shipments of weapons have been issued after April of 2014. Vice reported on the fact that grenade launchers have been given to campus police departments.

The controversy over bayonets recently became a political issue in Woodland, CA, after the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services released a report indicating that the Woodland Police Department received 15 bayonets. However, according to KCRA 3Woodland City Manager Paul Navazio claims that the city did not request the bayonets, has not received them, and could not possibly use them. A recent article on BenSwann.com noted the fact that many local police departments have lost track of some of these donated military weapons, which have since gone missing. Navazio did indicate that local police requested knives through the program, which officers intend to use to cut down marijuana plants during drug busts.

NPR‘s police militarization report does not specify which police department received each item, so it is unclear to which localities the nearly 12,000 bayonets were shipped. In response to widespread outrage over the use of military equipment to police America’s streets, the Obama administration recently ordered an investigation into the Department of Defense’s Excess Property program.

This article originally appeared Ben Swann

  • Jon

    As a journalism degree holding American shame on you all for this bias piece of literature. Now I do agree with you on the ridiculousness of the US donating them and the PD’s taking them Here are some facts.

    1. The picture you have is of a WW1 trench bayonet which is roughly 3-4in at least longer than the very un intimidating boot knife issued to the US military and donated to the PD. You can use whatever image you want as a eye catcher scare tactic but at least use the correct image. Your first hint should have been the bolt action rifle and B&W picture.

    2. “…affixed to the end of a rifle that soldiers use as a last resort to GUT enemies in close range.” GUT enemies really? This is journalism not a short story. Show some journalistic restraint on your obvious bias. Bayonets are used to stab, gutting occurs when you want to remove the guts of something. HIGHLY doubt very few soldiers have ever wanted to GUT their enemies, they’re just happy to kill them.

    3. As for the rest of your fear inducing list of Government equipment.

    -79,288 assault rifles: Which by law cannot be anything besides single shot (one trigger pull, one shot) when people on the streets have uzi’s a police officer is still screwed having an assault rifle. Also worth noting that a semi automatic rifle is partially useless as a “Assualt Rifle” since anyone else could spray bullets while you shoot one at a time.

    -205 grenade launchers: which can launch tear gas or smoke besides the obvious explosives you’re thinking but are you really going to argue the US gave police explosive grenades. Nope just grenade LAUNCHERS

    3,972 combat knives: COMBAT knife is a sexy buzz word for a knife…. god help us the police have knives. So does my 12 year old cousin. I’m more afraid of him with it.

    50 airplanes, and 422 helicopters: unless you suggest the PD is strafing people with gun fire those are both excellent things to help assist police.

    Evaluate your journalistic perspective. You’re supposed to be un bias.

  • Chaplain Tim

    Jon- you obviously don’t know much about firearms, like most journalists.
    1. The rifle in the picture is a M1892 Krag, you can tell by the side-loading box magazine. The Krag was used in the Spanish-American War, but was replaced by the Springfield M1903 series rifles before WW1. The Krag bayonet blade measured about 11.5 inches long, while a modern M7 bayonet has a 6.75 inch long blade, so you came close. This is by no means a “boot knife”, it is designed to be attached to the end of a rifle.
    2. “HIGHLY doubt very few soldiers have ever wanted to GUT their enemies, they’re just happy to kill them.” You don’t know many Infantry troops or Marines, do you? After having to wash what was left of a buddy out of the remains of his HMMV, a good friend of mine would have gutted, castrated, and burned the people responsible with a smile on his face. Want me to survey my combat veteran friends (Korea to Iraq era) and see how many will dispute you? I’m a Vet, but my job was to see that nuclear fire would rain down upon our enemies and that makes gutting a man seem trivial.
    3.”79,288 assault rifles: Which by law cannot be anything besides single shot (one trigger pull, one shot)” Here’s where the water gets really muddy, because the “journalists” have used the phrase “assault rifle” to mean whatever they want it to mean. The military definition of an assault rifle is a selective fire (semi- AND fully-automatic) rifle chambered for an intermediate caliber. Single shot means that it has to be reloaded between shots, semi-automatic means it reloads itself between shots but you have to squeeze the trigger again to get it to fire, fully automatic means it will continue to fire as long as you hold the trigger back. The M16/M4 and M14 rifles that are being given out to PDs around the country are true assault rifles (machineguns) because they are capable of fully automatic fire. BTW, fully automatic weapons made before 1986 are legal for civilians to own in 38 states (the number changes, but I think it’s 38 states right now).
    You got the grenade launchers right, they can launch a variety of projectiles including smoke, tear gas, HE, and Frag rounds. Buckshot and flechette rounds have been made, but haven’t been produced since Viet Nam as far as I know.
    Knives are handy to have. I agree with you on the use of buzz words to try to sell them.
    As far as the airplanes and helicopter go, I don’t think the problem is that they are using them to strafe civilians as much as it is giving them the ability to strafe civilians. Give a man a hammer and he’ll start looking for nails to hit with it.

    As a “journalism degree holding American” you should know that every report has a bias. It is next to impossible to report “just the facts” and still get published. The trick is being able to find the bias and point it out.