$urplus property

Federal share-the-wealth programs help agencies stretch those shrinking tax dollars to the max

     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 [1033] 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."

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