$urplus property

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


     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.

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