The U.S. Forest Service has bought $600,000 worth of “Electronic Control Devices” without any training program, rules for use or even a written explanation as to why the devices are needed, according to agency records posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The devices, known as Tasers, are sitting in storage and cannot be issued because the agency has yet to develop a training course.
Due to an intense fire season, the Forest Service is now staggering under a more than a quarter-billion dollar deficit, causing it to begin jettisoning core programs. For example, the agency lacks enough funds to draw up new timber sales. At the same time, the Forest Service law enforcement program is hobbled by more than 200 vacant positions, leaving only one officer to cover each 300,000 acres of National Forest and 750,000 annual million visitors.
In late September 2007, the Forest Service purchased 700 weapons and “related accessories” from Aardvark Tactical, Inc. of Azusa, California, a subsidiary of Taser International, at a cost to taxpayers of $600,001.52, according to agency records obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act. This represents enough to equip every single Forest Service special agent and law enforcement officer with an Electronic Control system at a cost of $857 apiece.