$2.6 million in surplus given to police. Where are the items? “We're not going to comment on that matter at this time.” -- Dewey PD

Did the Dewey Beach Police Department disclose its participation in the Defense Logistics Agency’s Law Enforcement Support Program to town officials? The question is still open.

The federal program has no regulations that would require them to do so.

The DLA is an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Law Enforcement Support Program, known as the 1033 program, distributes excess defense equipment to law enforcement agencies. In 2014, police in Ferguson, Mo., used military equipment obtained through the program in response to the protests and riots following the death of Michael Brown.

Over 8,000 law enforcement agencies across the country participate.

The Dewey department’s participation was most recently brought up in a report by attorney Max Walton, hired by the town to investigate a separate issue.

“It appears that the transactions have been completely separate from the Town’s administration, have not been included in the Town’s books and records, and have not been subject to audit. Sale proceeds are not distributed to the Town, and the money is used at the department’s exclusive discretion, at least on some occasions for the purchase of police equipment and vehicles,” Walton said in the report.

Since 2014, the DBPD has received over $2 million worth of equipment from the program, including a boat, multiple trucks, firearms and cameras, according to documents obtained by Muckrock. 

Delaware’s 1033 Program Coordinator, A.J. Schall, said that his office keeps careful records of all program transactions with the DBPD and other departments.

“All the equipment has to be inventoried for a certain amount of time,” he said. “Some equipment is disposable and falls off our database after a few years. But as long as the Department of Defense is considered the owner, we audit annually. We check for proper receipts and even serial numbers.” 

The state does not require police departments to disclose participation to town government.

When asked if the Dewey PD could account for all of the items by providing the physical location of items in their possession and paper trails for items sold, Sgt. Cliff Dempsey said, “We’re not going to comment on that matter at this time.”

On the agenda for a Nov. 11 Dewey Beach commissioners' meeting is the discussion of three options for to the 1033 program:

1. require the DBPD to provide complete accounting for property received through any federal or surplus property program,

2. accept a recommendation from the town’s audit committee to utilize the town’s auditors, or

3. hire an independent consultant to conduct a more comprehensive review.

TJ Redefer, elected mayor in September, said he didn’t find the department’s use of the 1033 program alarming, but understood why people might question why the town wasn’t aware of some of the transactions.

“Did they follow all the proper accounting procedures? It appears not,” Redefer said. “So there’s something lacking here. At our Nov. 11 meeting we will be taking the steps needed to do the proper audits, to make sure we can regain the trust of our people and account for all of this equipment.”