Captain AJ Benefield, interim police chief in Heflin, said the department is trying for a boat, two golf carts, three all-terrain vehicles and a 36-passenger bus through the 1033 Military Surplus program. It has been approved at the state level but is waiting for final approval, Benefield said. If the department gets all the requested items, it could total about $150,000 worth of equipment, he said.
“And all of this is no cost,” Benefield said.
The department does have to pick up the equipment and pay any fees or permits to transport it back to the community, he said.
The department has gotten other equipment through the program including M16 guns and a bulldozer, Benefield said.
“You have to do justification for your department to use these items,” Benefield said.
The city could use the golf carts and ATVs to help patrol special events like the concert a few weeks ago or the upcoming Fourth of July parade, Benefield said. The boat could be used for a water rescue on Lake Heflin or at the watershed, he said.
And if the city finds that it doesn’t use the equipment, with the exception of demilitarized weapons and such, after a year the department can auction it off to recoup their investment, Benefield said.
Sgt. Kenneth Perryman, program coordinator for the state of Alabama, said by 2012, Alabama law enforcement agencies had received more than $16 million worth of equipment through the program.
The program is open to all federal and state law enforcement agencies with arrest authority, Perryman said. The program was created by federal act in 1995 with a focus on counter-drug and terrorism efforts. Not all police departments have to deal with terrorism, but they do deal with drug arrests, he said.
The program gives them access to high end equipment that they may not otherwise be able to afford, he added.
“Whenever (the military) turns things back in, it’s available for law enforcement agencies,” Perryman said.
The equipment can run the gamut from buildings, to aircraft, to weapons, to night vision goggles to protective clothing, he said.
It’s all given away on a first-come, first-served basis, Benefield said. He gets emails when new equipment becomes available and lets the state know when he is interested in an item. It can take anywhere from two hours to two days to hear back from the state if the department’s request is approved, but it takes longer to go through the rest of the process, Benefield said.
Approval for the equipment has to go through three departments, the state, the Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency, which oversees the program, Perryman said.
It can take a few weeks before the department will know for sure that it got the equipment, Benefield said. But it’s worth the wait. It’s equipment the department doesn’t have the money to go out and purchase otherwise, he added.
“It’s a very beneficial program if used right,” Benefield said.