Surplus military gear has come in handy for some Michigan police departments
By ROBERTO ACOSTA | MLive.com | Published: July 3, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — As the floodwaters began to rise across mid-Michigan, Bay County Sheriff Troy Cunningham was in contact with his fellow law enforcement leaders in Saginaw and Bay counties.
He reached out to see what assistance the agency may be able to provide to help residents across the region after dams failed, pushing floodwaters into unforeseen places.
“They couldn’t get to some of the cars in Saginaw, in some of the subdivisions with vehicles they have there,” said Cunningham. His department sent its Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected, or MRAP, vehicle to help rescue around 60 residents.
It’s a piece of equipment acquired by the Bay County Sheriff’s Office through the Law Enforcement Support Office, or LESO, program under which law enforcement agencies can acquire, free of charge, surplus military equipment provided by the Department of Defense.
Along with the highly publicized MRAP vehicles, Humvees, and rifles secured by agencies, they have also received desks, computers and other items for everyday use.
The MRAP vehicle was also previously used amid flooding at Wenonah Beach along the Saginaw Bay and accessing areas in the county where regular police cruisers might not be able to make access in the winter season.
“If we didn’t have that MRAP, there’s things we can’t get to,” Cunningham said. “You hope you don’t need it, because it means somebody has gone through a bad day.”
Flint Police Chief Phil Hart added police need to be prepared for all different types of situations and the availability of the equipment can have its positives.
“We have our own bomb squad here, so to have the MRAP, you can get up on what you need to get up onto, the guys are suited, come out the back and do their thing,” he said. “But, there’s no reason for us to put that out in downtown.”
The Flint Police Bomb Squad was called into downtown Flint at the 2012 Back to the Bricks event after a suspicious bag was found along South Saginaw Street. Different components were found inside the bag but no explosives.
For smaller departments on a limited budgets, Larry Goerge, the LESO program’s state coordinator, said the list of available items is “pretty much everything they can acquire through the program there’s an equivalent civilian thing to.” That could include, for example, an automated external defibrillator, but at no cost, he said.
“Over time, the agencies typically receive the more innocuous items that people don’t care about anyway,” he added. “Who’s going to complain about police departments getting office supplies or first aid equipment or things like that?”