Editor’s note: This report is the first in a multi-part series on the militarization of law enforcement. Young
County Commissioner Mike Sipes is concerned about a lot of things.
Much of his testimony at Commissioners Court meetings suggests that he’s concerned about Young County’s growing space issues for its amassing volume of records, he’s concerned about his constituents’ tax burdens and he’s concerned about the various impacts of the ongoing drought.
And according to his County Commissioner Facebook page, he’s concerned about something else.
“If you choose to ponder these things, how much militarization of law enforcement is enough? Homeland Security is changing YOUR neighborhood,” Sipes wrote on his social media page Aug. 17.
That was the latest of a group of thematically consistent communiques that Sipes has been transmitting since May, months before the chaos in Ferguson, Missouri, erupted over the controversial shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
“I’ve recently posted a couple of articles about police militarization,” Sipes wrote on Aug. 12. “Is it what we want? Is it what we need? Is there another way or is this it? We need to decide before it’s too late, one way or the other.”
Last week he heard about the Young County Sheriff’s Department acquiring its third military vehicle; the newest one from Fort Bliss in El Paso. Deputies Jim Budarf, Nathan Bueno and Chris Moody were in El Paso picking up the armored six-by-six as last Monday’s Commissioners Court meeting was underway.
During that meeting, just before the court began the arduous task of finalizing its 2015 budget, Sipes brought the issue before the group.
“How do we budget for that?” he asked, referring to the three Young County Sheriff’s deputies taking a trip to El Paso to pick up the armored vehicle.
County Judge John Bullock replied that the deputies got a travel voucher from the county that included meals and lodging.
“If they’ve got that in their budget, then it’s an off-line expense, so there’s not a whole lot we can do about that.” Bullock said.
The judge went on to explain the situation to the best of his knowledge.
“It’s an armored six-by-six that’s in El Paso,” Bullock said. “And I’m sure it came off of a Department of Justice military grant of some kind.”
That’s when County Auditor Cheryl Roberts mentioned that any kind of maintenance the vehicle may need has to come from the Sheriff’s Department.
“Anything that they do to it is going to have to come out of money that they have in their budget,” she said.
Then Sipes asked another question.
“Do they have some sort of program of implementation?” he asked. “Some sort of guidelines by which that vehicle could be used; some sort of maintenance program? What is it for? I don’t know. Do we need to ask them?”
Read the entire story in the weekend edition of the Graham Leader.