Local Police Acquire Surplus Military Items

“It’s not bringing the military to the public, it’s basically taking advantage of equipment that’s out there,” said Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich.

Military surplus — rifles, humvees, clothing and first aid supplies are just the tip of the iceberg.

You may be surprised by how many military items are available at little or no cost to local police.

Many departments including the Leelanau and Clare County Sheriff’s Departments use the national 1033 military surplus supply program.

Law enforcement knows this can be a touchy subject.

You might ask why a sheriff’s department needs military grade equipment?

Well, they have a few good reasons.

“It’s a good use of tax payer money, instead of using our budget we use what’s already being manufactured,” Borkovich said.

Borkovich says his department can snag excess and outdated military equipment basically for free.

In 2011 the Leelanau Sheriff’s Department got 18 Vietnam War era rifles.

“It really is antiquated in terms of modern fire power in modern firearms, but it’s a good deal for us. It provides the deputies with a lot of personal safety and peace of mind and it also allows us to protect the people if someone is out of control,” he said.

And in Clare, the sheriff’s department acquired many items — totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars… Everything from clothing and bags to humvees and a front end loader — even campers and office chairs.

“It saves the county a ton of money in items that they would generally either have to purchase or go without,” said Clare County Lt. Edward Williams. “We have the rescue capability in climate conditions way beyond what most departments in the area would be available to do.”

Although it’s all military grade — they say it’s not out of control.

“We’re not building a special assault force for any reason. We’re using this equipment as a rescue type equipment and also day to day purposes,” Williams said.

“I think there’s been some misnomers out there,” Borkovich said. “I think if you look at the situation, like the homicide there was in Kalkaska … somebody has to respond to that somebody has to protect people and somebody has to make sure the situation is under control,” Borkovich said. “So I feel comfortable to issue the deputies equipment like this … so they are able to do their jobs in a safe and responsible manner.”

These departments say they try hard not to be frivolous and request only items they know they can use.