For Ky. sheriff's department, a Humdinger of a PR tool
Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.
OWENSBORO, Ky. — In 2011, the Daviess County Sheriff's Department received three Humvees through a military surplus program. One of the vehicles was turned into a work truck and another provides spare parts.
The third Humvee, however, is a public relations tool.
The department partnered with a number of local businesses to repaint the vehicle and install a stereo system and large television. A second electrical system was installed to run the electronic equipment and flashing lights; plans exist to install a wi-fi connection in the future.
"The truck is mostly public relations," said Cpl. Kent Taul. "Most people say that tongue in cheek — ‘it's a P.R. thing' — but I think it's extremely important. We are an organization that exists solely to serve the public, so I think it's reasonable that we put some effort into P.R."
Surplus military equipment is supplied to law enforcement agencies through the Defense Logistics Agency. Technically, the sheriff's department does not own the Humvees; Taul said if the department stops using the vehicles, it must return them to the military so they can be scrapped.
"From what I understand, the military will never want the thing back, but we can't own them," Taul said. "Vehicles that have a tactical application they never truly get rid of."
Taul said the military understood that the department was taking one of Humvees to serve as a small parts store for the other two vehicles and was fine with that plan.
The vehicles were towed from Louisiana to Owensboro by West Side Towing. Best Buy and Deno's Upholstery installed the AV equipment and upgraded the interior. On-Duty Depot installed the second electrical system; DMC Graphics, Colormatch and Greg's Collision Center donated materials for the exterior.
The paint job took more than a year — partly because the painters worked when they didn't have other jobs, but also because painting a rivet-covered Humvee is not a straightforward task, Taul said.
"If you want to put a nice, pretty paint job (on a Humvee), you have to take all the rivets out," Taul said. "I think it would be reasonable to say Greg's has a $15,000 paint and body job on the car."
The Humvee is replacing the department's "Meth Buster" truck, which was becoming difficult to maintain, Taul said. The Humvee will be maintained by Tim Bradley's Truck and Trailer, which made a commitment to service the vehicle, Taul said.
The Humvee will be used as a rolling presentation platform, where deputies can show videos about public safety issues and sheriff's department activities. The vehicle will also serve as an ice-breaker, Taul said.
"We absolutely need in-roads with the kids," Taul said. "We want to display ourselves to the public and the kids." Having a flashy vehicle that will draw attention will hopefully help the department overcome the stereotypes that some people have about all law enforcement, Taul said.
"All people know is we have time to pull them over in the middle of their busy day," Taul said. "We have an image to overcome and an image to present.
"Always when you see this vehicle, we're going to be at the rear, promoting public awareness or trying to promote what we do," Taul said. "Public awareness might be anything we're trying to teach or educate the public about, and this vehicle is going to make that job much easier."