By Rita Cook / The Ellis County Press
RED OAK – The police chief in Red Oak, Garland Wolf knows a thing or two about military surplus.
In the past he was one of the key players in the Southern Regional Response Group Special Response Team.
These days, he is an excellent go to resource for the ins and outs of making sure a city’s police department is well equipped.
In fact, entire police departments these days are able to purchase used military equipment through a government program called 1033, formerly the 1208 Program.
Since the program began the 1033 Program has allowed law enforcement agencies to acquire vehicles (land, air and sea), weapons, computer equipment, fingerprint equipment, night vision equipment, radios and televisions, first aid equipment, tents and sleeping bags, photographic equipment and more
Wolf said there are two methods of screening excess property.
“The first is physically visiting DRMOs or locations where the equipment is stored and looking over the excess property displayed,” he explained. “The second method would be reviewing the inventory list and finding out what is available. The program is very structured and only allows for items to be acquired that are needed and are justified in request submission for law enforcement purposes or can be tied into community service with a law enforcement spin.”
The program requires a tiered approval through the local, state and then national levels before acquisition can be made. The agency also has to prove how the item purchased will make a positive difference in the community or in a larger multi-jurisdictional effort.
“Requisitions cover the gamut of items used by America’s military – clothing and office supplies, tools and rescue equipment, vehicles, rifles and others small arms,” Wolf added.
Wolf also pointed out no equipment is purchased for distribution. All items were excess, which had been turned in by military units or had been held as part of reserve stocks until no longer needed.
Only about five percent of the surplus is weapons and less than one percent are tactical vehicles. Wolf said he has acquired in several instances at several departments, large towable back-up generators for use during emergency events or community emergencies, maintenance equipment for use on city facilities and for roadway clearance during times of natural or man-made disasters (back-hoes, front end loaders and skid steer tractors) several High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), commonly known as the Humvee or a four-wheel drive military light truck produced by AM General.
“These vehicles are utilized by my previous agency as inclement weather vehicles during torrential rainfall or high water events because of their fording ability and high ground clearance as well as icy and slick conditions to keep our more expensive and outfitted fleet vehicles off of the roadway limiting exposure to damage from wrecks,” Wolf said. “I know of other agencies who our combination police and fire departments who acquire ambulances and fire engines. The list of items is large and if used judiciously and for the right reasons this programs can save departments tens of thousands of dollars.”
In the City of Red Oak, Wolf said he has not acquired any weapons from the military.
“There are several reasons for this,” he explained. “First, anything that we could get from them we could purchase from a commercial civilian vendor. Second, when it comes to weapons I want to know the history and the lineage of the weapon, its maintenance and modifications made to it. For my department we do not use any fully automatic weapons nor do I feel, in my humble opinion, that anything of that nature is needed. Third, many of the weapons offered are generally harder to train and maintenance.”
Ferris Police Chief Eddie Salazar said he has used this program in the past when he worked with another agency too.
“We procured four-wheel drive vehicles and semi-automatic rifles,” Salazar said. “I think it’s a good program. It’s been around for a very long time, but the previous administration put a stop to it. They thought it militarized law enforcement agencies.”
Wolf said he does understand how people might believe such a thing about the program, but it is just not true.
“I understand when looked at quickly by the public they get concerned when civilian law enforcement have access to military equipment,” he explained. “What should be noted is that anything that we acquire through the program is almost always something that we could purchase with city funds commercially: portable lights, generators, vehicles, personal protective equipment (gas mask, protective outer clothing, eye protection, night vision, first aid gear and trauma kits (that are later packaged as mass casualty and street level response kits) and yes, weapons and armored vehicles.
“As an example a commercially engineered and manufactured armored car with ballistic protection suitable for what law enforcement is exposed to is conservatively $180,000 to $350,000. We do not have an armored vehicle at our department, but we have two that are regionally maintained as part of the Southern Regional Response Group Special Response Team that we participate in, acquired through the 1033 program. Those assets are within five to 10 minutes from our city should they be needed. This is a much more conservative approach and honestly they have a limited use profile on the majority of the responses we are sent to and would require special authorization for use based on the severity of the event.”
Brian Windham, the Police Chief in the City of Ovilla points to that city’s resource regarding the Southern Regional Response Group as to why his city does not need to utilizes the 1033 Program.
“There is not too much we need in regards to military surplus,” Windham said. “Our SWAT needs are handled by the Southern Regional Response Group. As far as my thoughts on the idea, I think it is great. Anything that the government can provide to us to help our officers stay safe and do their jobs even better is always appreciated. Unfortunately, there are situations when an armored vehicle or special weapons are appropriate so it is better to have and not need than need and not have.”
Wolf also said any items acquired must be kept on a very detailed inventory to include photographs and serial numbers. The items are audited by the 1033 LESO program several times a year to ensure that they are still in the department’s inventory.
“Any items obtained may be returned to any acquisition site when the use is complete,” Wolf said. “Items and equipment designated as controlled require the department to maintain it in inventory or return it to the program when its use is complete. There is a responsible push to provide alternatives to deadly force and rightfully so. Here is a cost effective option that allows for the equipment to be acquired and utilized in a life saving manner in lieu of deadly force, where deadly force would not be appropriate. The LESO routinely reminds Law Enforcement Agencies that weapons obtained through the 1033 program are on loan from the DOD and remain the property of the DOD.”
Allocation limits have been adjusted to the following weapons: M16 Rifles, M14 Rifle, M1911 Pistols, meaning these are now the only weapons allowed for acquisition by the program. These are all commercially available firearms and many agencies simply do not utilize this part of the program.
Weapons and tactical vehicles are limited and require special authorization procedures and have special use requirements. None of the tactical vehicles acquired have any offensive weaponry when received from the military.
“If I can provide that equipment or resource at no additional cost to the community, because their taxes have already paid for it through the military and it is being re-purposed and it requires minimal maintenance cost, why would I not do that,” Wolf concluded.