So MoJo’s Molly Redden went out to investigate the bourgeoning movement among police departments disturbed by the images from Ferguson to get rid of their own surplus Pentagon war machinery, and discovered it ain’t that easy. There’s a lot of paperwork with not a lot of help, and in general it’s clear the feds don’t want the stuff back. The reason is interesting:

According to interviews with state officials running point between the Pentagon and police, the Defense Department prefers to leave equipment in circulation whenever possible. “It’s a low-cost storage method for them,” says Robb Davis, the mayor pro tem of Davis [CA]. His town is trying to shake its MRAP [mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle]. “They’re dumping these vehicles on us and saying, ‘Hey, these are still ours, but you have to maintain them for us.’”

Thus police departments wanting to get rid of military equipment are strongly encouraged to give them to other po-po, who presumably either lack their own MRAPs or still think they’re cool.

So a trend that many perhaps thought reflected pure evil or at least egregious folly is really attributable to a green eye-shade cost-shifting trick. Figures.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.