hrough the authority of the National Defense Authorization Act's 1033 program, LESO has transferred more than 8 million items, from office equipment to aircraft, and vehicles worth more $633 million in the last 10 years. The benefits of Law Enforcement Support Office's (LESO) program have been as diversified as a police officer's duties.
With an automated, Web-based system for law enforcement agencies to place requests for equipment, LESO acts as a liaison between Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and state coordinators to check, verify, and approve the requests if the department qualifies. Once the department or state has used up an item, it goes to the appropriate Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, a field activity of DLA, and is disposed of or recycled.
Through this authority, LESO was able to transfer six cars to North Carolina. The North Carolina state coordinator made the cars available to the Clayton County Police Department. Packed by the Clayton County Police Department with $8,000 in surveillance equipment hidden inside the car's interior, officers in Clayton County have made many arrests due to the success of the surveillance evidence, and most defendants plead guilty instead of going to trial. In the last seven years, the vehicles have helped officers throughout North Carolina confiscate almost $3 million in illegal drugs and $750,000 in cash and make more than 3,000 arrests.
Even with the word on the street about the surveillance cars, the program still has found a way to fool the criminals.
"Once one of the vehicles gets recognized, then people won't do business with it," said Neil Woodcock of Law Enforcement Support Services for North Carolina. "So we can take it back and send it somewhere else in the state and other folks can use it."
The vehicles can be advantageous for local police departments to beat crime, but the 1033 program also offers a variety of excess equipment for disaster relief, such as military clothing and boots.
"This is an excellent program," U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Harvey Robinson, director of LESO, said, "because it not only saves the taxpayer money, it gives law enforcement agencies an opportunity to get equipment at no cost to not only assist them in taking criminals off the street but to obtain equipment to assist in state of emergencies."
The sheriff's office in Lake County, Florida, was able to coordinate with LESO to obtain equipment needed to begin clean-up efforts after four hurricanes hit Florida in fall 2004. "During the recent hurricanes," Sergeant Cliff Matthews of the Lake County Sheriff's Office wrote in a letter to Florida state coordinator David Peace, "we used almost every piece of equipment we had. I want to say thank you for supervising the program that allows us to acquire this equipment. These things would not have been available to us had it not been for the 1033 program."
Items transferred to Lake County included four high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV), generators used at shelters, lift stations, and cots and blankets, according to Matthews. Lake County was also able to dispatch crews to take the equipment to other hard-hit counties. The success of the program's ability to offer the items has encouraged many of the law enforcement officers and county government agencies in Florida to learn more about the program so they can better prepare their agencies.
According to Peace, Florida received equipment worth about $4 million during 2004 through the 1033 program, and the benefits have reached many diverse areas in the state.
Wakulla County, in the panhandle of Florida, received a free 800-kilowatt generator for a jail complex and one of its police department offices. "We took two tractors to haul it down there," Peace said. "There is no way the county could have afforded that generator out of their local budget."
A state does not have to be devastated by natural catastrophes to benefit from the LESO program. According to Army Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Powers, the state coordinator for Vermont, that state has found the program very useful. Vermont has outfitted some of its police departments with furniture from the LESO program that would not have been readily available. Now funds that the department was spending in the administrative areas, according to Powers, can go to concentrating on personnel for counterdrug efforts.
"Vermont is a small state," Powers said, "so a program like 1033 is really great for us. Much of the local government can't afford the equipment they have received from the LESO program, so the support has been excellent." Having been state coordinator for four years, Powers knows Vermont takes care of the items it receives. With many small towns having one person to fill the role of police and fire chief, many of the items LESO transfers are shared throughout the state to extend their shelf life. Powers notes that the LESO 1033 program has made it very easy to acquire needed items. "The automation system is great," he said. "I can go to the online screen from anywhere, even on the weekends, to check it and make approvals. It's an almost seamless process."
The support local law enforcement agencies receive to combat crime and provide aid to those who have suffered from natural disasters is a pivotal part of the 1033 program. LESO has also transferred equipment to help keep local law enforcement officers afloat-literally. According to Indiana state coordinator David Cardinal, assistance from the 1033 helped to tackle a major drug trafficking ring along Lake Michigan. On one occasion, a drug trafficker lined his boat with a metal ramming device and pushed it into a police boat. The pressure sank the boat and knocked nine officers into the water. After this incident, Indiana acquired a 41-foot Coast Guard cutter through the 1033 program. The use of the cutter enabled the police to catch the criminals who sank the police boat and also helped reduce drug trafficking from Lake Michigan to Gary, Indiana.
LESO also authorizes federal, state, and local governments to purchase law enforcement equipment at a discounted rate through the 1122 program. During the last four years California has saved more than $3.5 million purchasing products through the 1122 program rather than buying the products at retail prices. Law enforcement agencies can sign up for the program by going to www.dla.mil/j-3/leso/ and clicking the Section 1033 and Section 1122 links.
The Defense Logistics Agency provides supply support and technical and logistics services to the military services and to several civilian agencies. Headquartered at Fort Belvoir, DLA is the one source for nearly every consumable item for combat readiness, emergency preparedness, and day-to-day police department operations. ■