The Sedalia Police Department converted a former Air Force van into a search warrant vehicle, which officers call the Blue Falcon.

 

Surplus military equipment has found a new home with local law enforcement.

The Sedalia Police Department and Pettis County Sheriff’s Office have collected several demilitarized items through the Department of Defense Excess Property Program.

SPD and the sheriff’s office applied this month to be eligible for another year in the program, which is known at the state and local level as the Law Enforcement Support Office Program or Missouri 1033.

Sedalia police officers and county deputies have received significant surplus supplies from military branches.

The Department of Defense lists equipment it no longer needs in a database. Officers from law enforcement agencies that apply each year can search through the listings and request items.

A range of equipment, from goggles to helicopters, is available for free on a first-come first-served basis.

Cmdr. Matthew Wirt handles SPD’s applications to the program and has ordered machinery of considerable size for the department. Since first applying in 2010, SPD received a Humvee and a search warrant vehicle, which can carry several officers in its back compartment.

SPD has also requested a number of smaller items, such as ballistic helmets and a power generator.

“The only cost is actually getting the item to the police department,” Wirt said. “I think it’s a significant help because it’s allowed us to have things that we wouldn’t normally have been able to budget for.”

Sheriff Kevin Bond said his office has similarly taken advantage of the program. It has ordered rifles, a snowmobile and a mobile communications van.

Local law enforcement agencies apply to the Missouri LESO in the state department of public safety, which in turn applies to the Department of Defense.

SPD applied on behalf of the City of Sedalia, which required Mayor Stephen Galliher’s signature and Sedalia City Council approval. Bond had to receive approval from the Pettis County Commission before filing an application.

Should SPD and the sheriff’s office decide not to apply next year, the state office could take back the demilitarized equipment they’ve received.

The LESO program doesn’t offer only military-grade supplies. While scrolling through the listings, Wirt said he has seen unexpected items, such as go-karts and double-wide trailers.

Before a request is approved, the law enforcement agency has to justify why it needs each piece of equipment. Items that come from a higher level of classification, such as a Humvee, could require regular inspections from the state LESO.

“They check to make sure I have what I say I have and that I haven’t gone and sold it,” Wirt said.

Much of the equipment is already used, so officers have to make sure the items are in working condition before taking them, he said. Another challenge is bringing the equipment home from wherever it is offered.

SPD’s Humvee had to be hauled from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and the search warrant vehicle was from Springfield, Illinois, he said. Many items are available at military bases across the county, some as far as Anchorage, Alaska.

Once a law enforcement agency picks up an item, it’s at liberty to customize the property. SPD had its Humvee painted black and uses it mainly to display at community events.

The search warrant vehicle saw more comprehensive changes. Wirt and a police sergeant installed seat compartments, lights and handles in the back of the former Air Force van, which is now familiarly known in SPD as the Blue Falcon.

The sheriff’s office began applying to the program in the early 2000s and has also used the equipment it received, Bond said. The 1-ton communications van can drive off-road and maintain contact even from rural areas.

Although the sheriff’s office is not looking for any items in particular, Bond said he is appreciative of the program making quality equipment accessible to law enforcement.

“It’s good to be able to increase our resources,” he said. “Ultimately, the bottom line is the more resources that we have at our disposal, the better the service we can provide to the citizens of the community.”

By Nuria Martinez-Keel | Sedalia Democrat