Surplus military weapons accounted for in Loudon County
Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com
Despite problems that have occurred across the state, the surplus military weapons Loudon County law enforcement agencies have been receiving from the federal government are all accounted for, officials said.
Records from the State Department of General Services, Warehousing and Distribution Division indicate Loudon County received 14 assault rifles and five shotguns through a government surplus program that has been criticized for poor accounting practices.
Several Tennessee law enforcement agencies, including those in the city of Columbia, Claiborne County and even the Tennessee Highway Patrol, have been suspended from the federal surplus weapons program for losing track of weapons.
In 2013, the National Law Enforcement Support Office, which oversees the surplus program, halted the giving of all firearms to local agencies.
The Loudon Police Department received four surplus 5.56 mm rifles of the military M-16 type about a decade ago said Chief James "Bear" Webb. Every year the department has to submit responses to questions about where the weapons are stored. In recent years the department has had to provide photographs of the weapons, Webb said.
Lenoir City has four 5.56 M-16 rifles, six 7.62 mm M-14 type rifles and five 12-gauge Winchester Model 12 shotguns obtained from the surplus program. The weapons were received in 2006 and 2008. The department has to account for the weapons every year, said Public Safety Director Don White.
The Loudon County Sheriff's office has no surplus weapons, according to assistant chief deputy Jimmy Davis.
Darrell Smith, county emergency management agency director said he doesn't know where anybody ever got the idea that his organization keeps weapons. The EMA stocks no weapons, only equipment to help save lives, he said.
Equipment used to respond to the recent severe storm damage in the town of Philadelphia is a good example, he said. Shortly after the storm passed through the town, Smith's office set up a command center to coordinate rescue and relief efforts.
The armored vehicles, including Humvees and large trucks, obtained by the EMA through the surplus program can be used as shields to protect responding law enforcement officers, Smith said.
The National Law Enforcement Support Office records are not always completely accurate, Smith said.
When recent reports indicated his office had received almost $10 million in surplus equipment, Smith said he discovered that one Humvee was valued at $5 million. The vehicle, which is actually worth about $50,000, was once equipped with millions of dollars of electronics that were removed before the vehicle was delivered to Loudon County, he said.