A communications trailer for law enforcement costs about $400,000. A light armored vehicle, or LAV, costs about $300,000.
Lebanon’s Public Safety department got both for just the cost of upkeep and transportation.
The department got these through the state’s 1033 Program, which transfers surplus or unused military equipment to federal state and local law enforcement agencies.
“We started out as basically a pilot agency for the state [about 12 years ago],” said Mike Justice, public safety coordinator. “We’ve become one of the largest customers the state has.”
So far, the city has acquired equipment ranging from Kevlar helmets to an infrared camera system to weapons to an LAV.
“Really, there’s no limitation as long as it can be used for law enforcement,” said Justice.
Police Chief Scott Bowen said the program is invaluable to the city.
“Some of this stuff we wouldn’t be able to afford without this program,” said Bowen. “It would just be so costly it wouldn’t be cost-effective to buy.”
He said that while some items, such as the Kevlar helmets, are used on a daily basis, other items are used much more infrequently, but are no less useful.
“Recently we took our LAV over to Trousdale County,” said Bowen. “They had a barricaded suspect that had fired shots at police…When you have barricaded suspects or shots have been fired at officers, that’s when that thing comes in handy. You don’t really think about that stuff until you need it, and when you need it, you need it then.”
Bowen said when the department needs equipment, he checks with Justice to see if it’s available through the state-run program, but public safety’s William Glover also checks for available items daily.
“He usually gets online every day, sometimes he gets online at 2 o’clock or 3 o’clock in the morning because of the time changes across the nation,” said Justice.
And the competition is fierce to get items as they come available.
“As money gets tighter, more agencies are coming online,” said Justice. “It’s a first-come, first-served basis, and it’s done by computer, so it takes personalities and favoritism out of it.”
Despite the competition, though, Justice is more bothered when cities do not take advantage of the program.
“I hate to see cities that can utilize this equipment go out and buy equipment when it is out there,” said Justice. “You’ve already paid for this equipment once when you paid your federal income tax.”