Neil Woodcock is a little like a modern, police-oriented Santa Claus. But the lists he receives are a little different than the ones most children would send to Saint Nick— instead of video games and toys, he's more likely to be after horses, night vision goggles, M-16s and helicopters.
That's because Woodcock takes requests from law enforcement agencies. But in some ways he's better than Santa: Woodcock doesn't have to wait until Christmas to fulfill an agency's wish list. Instead, this UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and Air Force retiree works all year to match an agency with the stuff they need.
Woodcock, director of Law Enforcement and Support Services for North Carolina Crime Control and Public Safety (NCCCPS), spends his days matching surplus military property with law enforcement agencies that need it.
Woodcock is North Carolina's go-to guy for the 1033 Program, a great way for law enforcement agencies to get the equipment they need without spending an extra penny of their budgets, yet give American taxpayers the most bang for their tax bucks.
Most agency heads know about this program and similar ones. But for those who don't — or who need a refresher — here's a look at how two states approach these win-win government programs.Sharing the wealth
Federal surplus property programs aren't new, nor are they aimed solely at law enforcement. Some target programs for the homeless or elderly or others, ranging from cultural initiatives such as libraries, museums, educational institutions or even resources for the disabled to receive extra and unused government items. But the excess property programs operated to benefit law enforcement are probably the ones that yield the most technical and high-dollar equipment.
Though the programs function to benefit law enforcement, they're carried out differently depending on region and state.
Woodcock operates both the 1033 and 1122 programs for police agencies in North Carolina. At present, Woodcock says, there are about 400 of the 600 eligible agencies participating. A look at the program advantages makes it difficult to understand why one-third of eligible agencies aren't using them.
The 1033 program allows agencies to obtain surplus property from the Department of Defense (DoD) at little or no cost to the agency. While the DoD does not charge for the property, some states do tack an administrative charge onto the process to cover handling costs. That amount varies from state to state. In North Carolina, the cost of administering the 1033 Program is absorbed by the N.C. Legislature, which pays the expenses of Woodcock's small agency. The money he receives from the state off sets the cost of compensating his small staff, maintaining the office and paying travel expenses. But not all state agencies have funding at the legislative level.
In South Carolina, police must pay an annual fee, contingent on the department's size, to qualify for surplus property obtained through the 1033 Program. This fee, called an Annual Support Fee, entitles the agency to obtain property without additional charges from the state.LESO
Excess military property is transferred through the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) under Section 2576A, Title 10 U.S. Code, in coordination with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). According to LESO's Web site, "The 1033 Program (formerly the 1208 Program) provides more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies with an avenue to receive [DoD] excess items, increasing the quality and quantity of equipment they have to carry out their duties."
Initially, the 1208 Program allowed excess DoD property to be transferred for use only in counter-drug operations. But in 1995, the DLA took the program over. Now renamed the 1033 Program, it allows transfer of items for any law enforcement purpose and operates out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
There are program coordinators in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What is so confusing for many police agencies is that each state approaches the program from a unique perspective. Some states have placed its programs in the hands of an independent agency; others administer it through the state police or National Guard. And there are varying levels of activity within the programs. Some agencies use the 1033 Program often, while others pick up only a few things here and there.
Regional coordinators work with the states via the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC).'Not like going to Wal-Mart'
"Some states run excellent programs and some don't," says Kenneth Dover, NLECTC program manager for the Southeast Region. Three of the top states, he says, are California, Illinois and North Carolina. California secures the most equipment in conjunction with its 1033 Program, not simply because it's a big state, but because it has so many departments.
"The LA County Sheriff's Department has four tractor trailers that stay on the road all year picking up equipment," he says.
But Dover says it's different from walking into a store and putting stuff in your cart. "It's not like going to Wal-Mart," Dover says. Instead, he explains, equipment is requested through the state coordinator. Some states take requests and then the coordinator's office goes to work locating the equipment. Others simply point agencies to sites where they can browse DoD offerings.
"You may be looking for Kevlar helmets and there may be nine available today and 5,000 tomorrow," Dover says. Items turned in go into the system for a special screening cycle available only to other DoD units and special programs. If the items are not picked up on "first dibs," they move to the next phase, where they are available to law enforcement agencies. They remain available for 15 days. Inventory that is not claimed by agencies is then either destroyed or placed on public sale.
Dover points out that state coordinators also often operate 1122 Programs alongside the 1033s. The 1122 Program allows agencies to purchase new equipment through the General Services Administration (GSA) at a reduced price — about a 25 percent discount.
"North Carolina has an armored Cadillac it got through this  program," Dover says. He says another great find was a mobile dental van that had about 6,000 miles on it. The van had dental chairs, running water and room for two dentists to work. The van was stripped of its dental identity and outfitted as a mobile communications van — the re-outfitting cost about $35,000, but the van itself was valued at about $300,000 — a considerable price break to the local taxpayers.
Dover says that in FY 2007, Ft. Belvoir gave away 26 armed personnel carriers, valued at $500,000 apiece.
Last year Ft. Belvoir fielded 18,451 requests during what Dover terms a "slow year" due to the war in Iraq, which leaves less in the way of surplus.
"Why would a department go out and spend their money when they can get it for free?" Dover asks.Law enforcement 'flea market'
Neil Woodcock is waiting for the horses to arrive. The North Carolina program administrator says the steeds are one of his more unusual property procurements: They're "retirees" from Arlington National Cemetery.
"The horses are trained to carry caskets and that's what we're getting them for," Woodcock says. His state's legislature recently instructed the state highway patrol to provide a team to handle caskets during state-related funerals. Woodcock found them — at no cost to the state. And that's not all Woodcock has found over the years.
"If you're Charlotte [Police] and have lots of money, you probably don't need excess property, but the way I run it, it doesn't matter if you're big or small — the first [agency] to ask is the one who gets it," he says. "We're not in the business of deciding who has the greatest priority."
By allowing every agency in the state an equal chance at scoring needed surplus property, Woodcock says the politics are removed from the process. For example, if an agency writes Woodcock a letter asking for 10 helmets, the request must be justified, such as "I'm going to issue one to each of my officers to carry in the back of their patrol cars to use if trouble arises." The requests are sorted and weighed (for instance, if an agency has 10 officers and asks for 35 helmets, the request may not be approved). The request is entered into the agency's computer and when Woodcock and his team find the requested equipment, they match their cumulative request list to what's available. The computer list is then consulted and the secured helmets are apportioned in the order requested. By arranging for the smaller items to be sent to the state, agencies also save the cost of having to transport the items. Only larger requests, like vehicles, are picked up by the requesting agency.
High on the most-requested list are computers as well as Kevlar vests and helmets. Woodcock says his agency has helped law enforcement in his state tap into $121 million in property over the last 14 years. "What this does is allow the law enforcement agency to spend money on other things," he says. "It's kind of like getting your cousin to shop for you at the flea market — if it's there, he buys it, and if it's not, he goes back next week and shops for it again."
Woodcock's agency also operates a loan program that allows agencies to borrow specialized equipment, like vehicles outfitted with high-tech surveillance equipment — the kind of thing a department can use for drug operations and picking up intelligence.
He likes how North Carolina uses the program. "Some states give it to the highway patrol and they use it for their own purposes, some hand it over to the National Guard," he says. "In a lot of states they give it to the state agency [that handles] surplus property. They're already in the business of getting stuff, but …with a different view of how to get things done."Annual support fees
One state with a decidedly different way of handling excess property from its northern cousin is South Carolina, where Ron Cathey runs the state's 1033 Program.
"Some states like North Carolina fund their programs through authorization and ours chose not to do it in this manner," Cathey says. "We charge an Annual Support Fee. Our objective is to keep that charge as low as possible and get as much of the stuff they need."
In South Carolina, departments pay the annual fee to qualify for surplus property through the 1033 Program. The fee is based on the size of the department. Small agencies — one to 25 officers — pay $500 annually. Large agencies pay $2,000. The South Carolina program's goal is to pay for its own administration, says Cathey. "My job is to get the guys in white hats the property, because the guys in black hats have few financial constraints," he says.
South Carolina also administers the 1122 program, but it falls under a different administrator.
Cathey has secured aircraft for departments, as well as laptops. "I recently secured 18 Dell laptops for a department. The hard drives had to be removed for security reasons, but those can be replaced for $100 to $250 each. That's $37,800 worth of computers and it didn't cost them anything but their annual membership," he says.
The list of available equipment is as varied as each departments needs. Some highly sensitive equipment, like night vision scopes, are available for loan, but the agency must turn the items back in when it is finished with them.
As far as the state coordinators go, Cathey says they all work together. "If one state needs something immediately that another may have received, it can be transferred to the state with the greatest need with LESO's approval," he says.
The loan program can come in quite handy, depending on new crime trends. Cathey tells the story of a little town called Central, near the border of North and South Carolina, where a gang of car thieves were making off with vehicles by driving them through rough terrain, slowing down any pursuit. The town requested and received a military truck that chewed up those ravines and river beds faster than one can say "You're under arrest" — they caught the thieves.
"Our philosophy is that we're all in this together," Cathey says. And it's obvious the programs propel that philosophy into real-life applications — making law enforcement's jobs easier and giving the taxpayer's wallets a little rest at the same time.
Editor's note: For more information on the 1033 Program visit https://pubweb.drms.dla.mil/cmis/section1033.htm. For 1122 Program details, visit www.gsa.gov and follow the subsequent tabs: Products, Security and Law Enforcement, 1122 Counterdrug Program.
A 12-year veteran of police work, Carole Moore has served in patrol, forensics, crime prevention and criminal investigations, and has extensive training in many law enforcement disciplines. She welcomes comments at email@example.com.