Since 2010, Las Vegas-area law enforcement agencies have received $8.4 million worth of excess military equipment from an arm of the Department of Defense.
Between 2010 and 2022, Las Vegas Metro Police Department received 1,188 pieces of equipment worth more than $6 million, with dozens of aircraft engine parts accounting for more than half the price tag, according to DoD records.
There were 133 reflex sights for rifles, worth almost $50,000, and seven thermal sights totaling $123,000, a $400,000 fuel tanker, a forklift, six night vision devices, 28 night vision image intensifiers, two binoculars with night vision and 29 regular binoculars, among other things.
The aircraft engines and parts are used by the Air Unit, conducting search and rescue operations, as well as patrol functions, a LVMPD spokesperson said,
The police force is using the rifle sights to help in low-light situations, and are using six-night vision devices, 28-night vision image intensifiers, two binoculars with night vision and 29 regular binoculars by Search and Rescue, covert units, and other specialized units to locate individuals under the hours of darkness, the spokesperson said.
“This is especially important for search and rescue to locate individuals lost in the mountains or desert areas within Clark County.”
The fuel tanker is used to transport fuel for the Air Unit helicopter during search and rescue operations in remote areas. The spokesperson noted that the PD also has a metal detector that is used during an Officer Involved Shooting to help investigator locate the rounds fired by the officer and/or the suspect.
Between 2013 and 2016, Las Vegas Fire and Rescue received 18 pieces of equipment worth $2.3 million including an unmanned ground vehicle worth $135,000 in 2015 when it was acquired, DoD records show. A fire an rescue spokesperson said the vehicle is a small inoperable platform robot, used only for parts.
The fire and rescue org also received eight Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) robots, worth $276,000 each, six robot lift systems, and a few tools.
The EOD robots are to be used for repair parts, according to a spokesperson the Defense Logistics Agency, which oversees the DoD excess property. “Las Vegas Fire & Rescue operates a bomb squad and uses these critical parts to maintain robotic assets in serviceable condition which allow citizens and EOD technicians to remain safe,” the DLA spokesperson said.
The Las Vegas Fire and Rescue spokesperson said, “The City of Las Vegas – Fire & Rescue operates the only accredited bomb squad in Southern Nevada. Our Arson/Bomb Squad members are sworn peace officers and the division is recognized by the State of Nevada as an official law enforcement entity within Las Vegas Fire & Rescue. This has allowed us to participate in the 1033 Program, in turn over the years it has saved local taxpayer dollars in the millions when critically needed parts have been replaced due to wear and tear or damage. The safety of our citizens and first responders, to include our bomb technicians is paramount.”
Las Vegas Municipal Court Marshal acquired $53,000 worth of equipment between 2015 and 2019, including 40 magazines, 21 rifle bipods, 23 reflex sights, a laser rangefinder worth more than $20,000 when it was acquired in 2016, and more, according to the DoD.
The DoD’s records show that North Las Vegas Justice Court received $45,000 worth of equipment all in 2022, including 21 magazines, three pairs of night vision binoculars worth $8,354 each, three image intensifiers, six gun modification kits, two small arms integrated illuminators that can be mounted on weapons, and more.
Court Administrator Terri A. March said the court’s Supervisory Marshal, David Cox, acquired the equipment to train their marshals, citing previous incidents of violence against court security officers and other people in theirs and other courthouses.
Their training includes holding active shooter drills, and they have added a campus security wall, a closed-circuit TV system and improved exterior lighting, among other security improvements, March said.
She added they didn’t request the night vision binoculars and they are being returned to the DoD. Marshal Cox requested regular binoculars to help in scoring long range target shooting evaluations during semiannual firearms qualifications, she said. The 21 magazines they received are used in training, and are disposable after a certain amount of usage.
“The Court recognizes and is sensitive to concerns over the perceived militarization of our security staff,” March said. “With that in mind, [Cox’s] communications over the course of several months were intended to obtain defensive equipment to be used during the numerous staff trainings conducted throughout the year. He obtained modifiers that would make certain weapons less than lethal, and obtained weapon illuminators that would assist during the frequent power outages that we experience in this building as well as situations with low lighting. This type of enhancement ensures that items such as cell phones are not mistaken for weapons, and overall improve safety for the public.”
The weapons and other gear come from the DoD’s 1033 program, run by the Defense Logistics Agency to dispose of unneeded excess property from military units. Since the 1990s, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies can ask for and receive this equipment.
Dubbed 1033, the program is named after the section of the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act that granted permanent authority to the Secretary of Defense to transfer these materials.
As of June 2020, there are about 8,200 law enforcement agencies from 49 states and four U.S. territories that participate in the program, according to Defense Logistics Agency.
The controversial program has been questioned as wrongly militarizing the police by giving them weapons designed for war. Critics have argued that heavily-armed police are more heavy-handed toward protestors, including those involved in recent protests.
A spokesperson for Las Vegas Municipal Court Marshal didn’t respond to a request for comment about how they use this equipment.