Local law enforcement agencies take advantage of government program to receive military equipment

Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 7:23 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON, Iowa (KCRG) - Washington, Iowa has around 7,200 people, according to the United States Census Bureau, but its police department received a mine-resistant vehicle, which is normally used for areas of war.

The town’s police department is one of 90 different law enforcement agencies across Iowa who took advantage of a program through the Department of Defense LESO/1033 program to receive cheap surplus military equipment. The program gives law enforcement agencies access to mine-resistant vehicles, armored trucks, night-vision sniper scopes, infrared telescopes, rifles, and other military equipment for cheaper prices.

The amount of equipment bought from 2019 to 2014 compared to 2013-2009 increased by around 350%, according to data from the Department of Defense. The value of the equipment received, over the same time period, increased around 433%.

The Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office is one of around 12 different law enforcement agencies that have a mine-resistant vehicle. The mine-resistant vehicle is worth around $700,000, but the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office said it received it for free through the program.

Mark Herbst, who is a captain with the sheriff’s office, said they rarely use the mine-resistant vehicle.

“That machine has a limited scope and purpose and only comes out when needed,” he said.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Mason City Police and the Clinton Police Department also have a mine-resistant vehicle.

The Ceder Rapids Police Department received an unmanned ground vehicle from the program. It has an estimated worth of $30,000.

Agencies commonly use the program to buy rifles for cheap as well, like Polk County Sheriff’s Department. It bought 42 different rifles through the program.

The state’s department of natural resources bought over 130 rifles through the program.

The Linn County Sheriff’s department received 17 rifles.

Other agencies don’t participate in the program or haven’t participated in the program for years, like the Dubuque Police Department.

The department only received one rifle back in 2000. They haven’t participated in the program since then.

Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t participated in the program at all.

Joe Kennedy, who is the Dubuque county sheriff, said he doesn’t think the maintenance costs are worth the small number of times they would use gear like mine-resistant vehicles.

“Basically we don’t want to maintain it for years and years and years,” he said. “Until that very small opportunity arises, where we still need it.”

Since 1994, law enforcement agencies in the state have received more than 3,000 pieces of military equipment from the program worth $12 million through the program.

Fernando Garcia-Franceschini contributed to this story.

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