Law-enforcement technologyDHS grants help Kansas Law enforcement agencies buy new equipment

Published 1 November 2012

DHS grants help local law enforcement agencies fight crime more effectively, but according to some, those same agencies are bypassing military grade surplus equipment for brand new shiny toys

DHS grants help local law enforcement agencies fight crime more effectively, but according to some, those same agencies are bypassing military grade surplus equipment for brand new shiny toys.

Selling military grade equipment to law enforcement “is a small industry, but a very dedicated one,” consultant Jerry Pollack told Watchdog.org.

Recently, law enforcement agencies in Kansas have been the equivalent of a 17-year old girl with a new credit card. Currently there are about 400 different agencies in Kansas signed up to the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), which, according to DLA Web site, provides worldwide logistical support to the military services as well as several civilian agencies and foreign countries.

As recently as 2011, DLA gave out more than 700,000 items of military equipment to law enforcement agencies around the country, totaling $500 million dollars. Most of the items bought from DLA, however, hardly make it into the field, according to Watchdog. The majority of departments in the state buy desks, chairs, and office equipment, but there are some special orders that do come along once in a while.

The Salina police department purchased an armored tactical vehicle in order to fight the war on drugs in the state.

Now, more agencies are leaning toward buying brand new equipment instead of tapping army surplus, as DHS will still pick up the tab. They do not pay for personnel to learn to use the equipment, however.

Although DLA identifies 377 Kansas participants that subscribe to its surplus equipment catalogs, it isn’t immediately clear how many of them are actually buying things, Michelle McKaskill, a DLA spokeswoman told Watchdog.

City officials in Lawrence, Kansas have signed off on a new custom armored tactical vehicle, to use when handing out dangerous arrest warrants or in hostage situations. The vehicle’s price tag was $152,000, which DHS paid for.

“We’ve tried used equipment before and have learned its limitations,” Lawrence Police Sgt. Trent McKinley told Watchdog. “We’re currently using an old converted Dodge cargo van that provides little protection to officers or to citizens in those situations.”

The Junction City police department has also inquired about a tactical vehicle as Junction City Police Chief Tim Brown knows his staff needs an upgrade. “We used an old library truck before,” Brown told Watchdog.

Brown also said that his department and others try to cut the generally estimated $150,000 to $250,000 cost of the new units by financing the acquisitions through regional emergency management councils and sharing the unit with other departments that chip in for radios or other equipment, thus helping cut DHS costs. Another method is sharing the equipment among departments, but according to industry consultant Jerry Pollack of Lindstrom Research, that can lead to some issues. “It’s like you and your brother borrowing your dad’s car,” Pollack told Watchdog. “It doesn’t always work out.”

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