In 2003, Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County in South Carolina, watched from a distance as a group of extremists in Abbeville killed two law enforcement officers while continuing to hold off a small army of police officers for 14 hours. This particular incident made him realize that they lacked the necessary equipment needed in order to properly handle a situation like that.
In 2013, Columbia police Captain Earle Marsh watched stunned as a crazed Clemson University student and known drug dealer barricaded himself in a residential home, then proceeded to commit “suicide by cop” when he charged Marsh’s SWAT team, wielding an AK-47 rifle. An officer could have been fatally wounded when he was nearly hit by a bullet. Marsh soon came to the conclusion that his team did not have any kind of armored protection that could have shielded his SWAT team members or civilians in the event of a similar emergency.
In light of these two incidences, both Lott and Marsh began to use a Pentagon program that distributes surplus military equipment to law agencies across the United States. Since 1997, the program has distributed more than $4 billion worth of equipment.
In the Midland area, several law enforcement agencies have received several million dollars’ worth of surplus gear, including armored Humvee vehicle as well as multi-ton mine-resistant vehicles, helicopters, fax machines, ropes and rifles to name a few.
Recently, Marsh gave a reporter a tour of the underground cache of full of military gear, containing dozens of different items including backpacks and winter fleece jackets. Additional items received by the department include folding bayonet-type field knives and two tactical axes. “You never know when you’re going to need an ax,” Marsh said.
Local law enforcement agencies are not to receive any offensive heavy-combat weapons, such as .50 caliber machine guns or high explosives under the Pentagon program. In fact, items are de-militarized, meaning any combat capabilities are removed before being received by civilian law enforcement agencies
Though often regarded as weapons, tactical axes and large tactical folding knives are much more versatile than that. They are commonly used by military personnel and law enforcement officials as multi-purpose, utility tools that can even used in rescue situations depending on the specific operation.
“Although the tactical tomahawks we have made since 2001 were originally designed as weapons with the ability to pierce kevlar helmets, they were quickly found to be used much more frequently as breaching and rescue tools in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq,” says Richard Carmack of RMJ Tactical, LLC. “Troops that used our tomahawks in combat situations are now transitioning into law enforcement and emergency services roles and are finding the breaching ability of these light weight tools to be invaluable.”
Ultimately, the aim of this program is give law enforcement agencies the tools and resources they need in order to better serve and better protect the public.