The Rest of the Story

The MSM reports that US police departments are donating tactical gear to the Ukraine. Could be. But there is more to the story. State and local agencies have access to government surplus items. One of the purveyors of government largess was called Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office¬†DMRO. It has since morphed into the Defense, DLA. There is a catch. The local agency gets the item in the manner that DMRO (DLA) is willing to provide. This could be an act of charity, but then again…

When I was assigned to a narcotics task force, we decided to partake in the government handouts. The task force never exceeded twenty investigators. The boss gave our National Guard guys permission to acquire items on a short list, ballistic helmets, BDU’s and combat boots.

The boss should have snapped when our guard contingent set out in a one-ton stake bed truck to pick up their shopping order. After all, how much space could uniforms, boots and helmets for twenty investigators take? Experience is a mother, first you get the test, then you get the lesson.

Our heroes showed up, back at the office, with three pallets of boots, helmets and BDU’s. For the uniformed that is a 4’x4’x4′ box, set on a wooden pallet. What the government gives is an all or nothing proposition. But reality wasn’t done yet. The majority of the boots were either size six or size thirteen. Left boots seemed to predominate. In this instance a pair meant that the total number of boots could be divided by two with no leftovers. Of the hundreds of boots, we barely outfitted the intended investigators. The same scenario played out with the BDU’s. The three bears had nothing on this selection. Ditto the helmets. We got what we needed without making a dent in the stuff we didn’t want or need. Kids call it last tag, you’re it!

We invited our participating agencies to pick over our treasure trove. No takers. We tried to give the stuff away to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. We discovered there is some charity those organizations will not accept. The guard guys took to driving around with a box of cast-off boots or BDU’s ever alert to the appearance of a drop off box. It wasn’t enough.

Years later we were still saddled with the pallets of mismatched boots, worn out BDU’s and helmets. The boss mandated that stuff had to be gone by the end of the week. The guard guys got it done. The stuff disappeared.

A short time later, I was taking a crook to the city detention center to be booked. The immediate area, around the detention center is a no-man’s land of vacant lots, railroad sidings and abandoned buildings. Normally, it is an area that the homeless, winos and street hustlers called home. As I ran the gauntlet, it looked like an occupation army had moved in. Male, female, six to sixty, blind, crippled and crazy all of the denizens were outfitted in BDU’s. A closer look revealed that all were shod with combat boots. Some of the pairs of boots consisted of two left boots. Some pairs were not exactly matching, as one boot might be size ten while the other was size thirteen. Patrol officers couldn’t explain the phenomena. Their inquiries revealed that the source of the clothing was two dudes driving a stake bed truck.

The ultimate oxymoron, “We’re from the Federal government, here to help!” I can’t help thinking that the police departments making donations just freed up a whole lot of storage space.

This happened almost twenty years ago. I think the statute of limitations has run. But just in case….