Sheriff Arpaio forced to return military weapons

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is preparing to send back hundreds of weapons received under the US Government's controversial 1033 program, which sends military surplus equipment to local agencies.

Arpaio says the MCSO lost or misplaced 9 guns over 20 years, and is now being forced to return all items received.

More than 100 agencies are "suspended" from the program for similar reasons, but Arpaio says to his knowledge, the MCSO is the only agency to be terminated.

"It really doesn't mean anything. Look at the handguns.  They probably don't work anyway.   We have plenty of our own," Arpaio said Tuesday.

"We'd like to find them.  We don't know where they're at.  We keep auditing to try to find them, but way back then we didn't have the high tech computer system [to track them]," Arpaio explained.

Roughly 200 weapons have to be returned, along with 158 pairs of night vision goggles, and 2 armored vehicles.

Arpaio says his deputies do not use the old guns, which arrived in the early 1990s.   He says the program was useful at the time, but the MCSO has since purchased newer, better handguns and rifles.

The MCSO is still left with several armored cars for SWAT teams, and command vehicles.

Arpaio's office is also buying newer night vision goggles.

"We were buying those anyway.  We have the money," he said.

The MCSO's backup helicopter will also have to be returned.  It was used last weekend to rescue a snake bite victim.   Arpaio says a new helicopter has been ordered to replace it.

The MCSO has four months to return all of the surplus equipment.