BAKER COUNTY, Fla. - Since riots in Ferguson, Mo., local law enforcement has been seen with military equipment like armored vehicles and weapons.
That surplus equipment is given to law enforcement agencies here on the First Coast and across the country by the federal government.
Since 2014, a government program allowed law enforcement and even school districts to have armored vehicles and high-powered rifles.
It’s called the National Defense Authorization Act. or the 10-33 program.
"It allows law enforcement agencies to utilize military surplus items,” says Lt. Brad Dougherty with the Baker County Sheriff's Office.
Two years ago, the federal government gave some law enforcement agencies on the First Coast military vehicles and weapons.
"That's how we obtained and got 50 rifles from them," says Dougherty.
North Florida agencies weren't the only recipients; most notably you've seen military equipment used during the tension in Ferguson.
And following negative reaction to what some called militarized police department, last year President Obama banned certain military armored vehicles and weapons from going to local agencies.
Fifty M-16 rifles were given to Baker County Deputies before the ban.
"The majority of items law enforcement agencies obtain, is items they would already have."
He says they are now giving those rifles back but not because of the ban. Dougherty says they were not asked by the government to return the items. He says they're giving them back because the agency doesn't need 50 rifles - and they are older models.
"We made the decision this year to purchase our own rifles, enough to outfit the remaining deputies on patrol."
The sheriff's office now has about 25 of its own new M-16s.
But the ban is the reason the Starke Police Department says it recently returned an armored military vehicle. Critics of the program have voiced concerns about local law enforcement using military vehicles.
The Baker County Sheriff's Office has two of those vehicles but what they will do with them is still up in the air.
"We have a SWAT vehicle, which is a MRAP and a Humvee, both are on that 10-33 program," says Dougherty.
Another important note on the M-16s in Baker County; while they were doing inventory to return the 50 weapons, they discovered one is missing. That case is under investigation.
(© 2017 WTLV)