FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Major Lafayette Woods, Jr.
Operation Commander/Public Information Officer
JEFFERSON COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE REACTS TO CRITICISM OF THE ‘DEFENSE DEPARTMENTS 1033 PROGRAM” AND FINDS POSITIVE DOMESTIC USE IN DEMILITARIZED SURPLUS PROPERTY: Jefferson County, Arkansas – September 10, 2014-With the nation focused on the unfolding events in Ferguson, Mo., the standoff has brought renewed attention to a little-known Defense Department’s LESO 1033 Program. Recently, the Defense Department’s LESO 1033 Program has been criticized both by citizens and the United States Congress, who following the deployment of military surplus equipment including an MRAP by law enforcement authorities in Ferguson, MO as a show of force and crowd control proposed that the federal government review its policy of providing local law enforcement agencies with military-style equipment.
On Wednesday, September 9, 2014, CSPAN-3 aired the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the Oversight of Federal Programs for Equipping State and Local Law Enforcement (DoD’s LESO 1033 Program).
Within a few months, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office acquired two pieces of demilitarized surplus equipment from the Arkansas Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) as part of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Excess Property 1033 Program.
In February 2014 after a near 2 year 1033 DoD Program wait for excess property, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office purchased a MARCbot used by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to inspect suspicious objects or packages. The purchase price normally runs the government and U.S. Military $29,487.00, but the sheriff’s office purchased the MARCbot for $300.00, which covered the service fee and shipping. “The MARCbot serves as a great benefit to our Special Response Team (SRT) and its existing robotics program, while offering immediate situational awareness in areas of deployment prone to ambush”, said Sheriff’s Office Spokesman and Operations Commander, Major Lafayette Woods, Jr. The MARCbot is ideal for raids, building clearing, and other close end scenarios. It would give our SRT operators the ability to investigate confined and hard to access areas, while allowing them in areas where our existing robot cannot fit or maneuver.
In May 2014, the sheriff’s office purchased a Mine-Resistant Ambush protected armored vehicle (MRAP) that had been used by troops in Afghanistan. The purchase price normally runs the government and U.S. Military $733,000.00. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office purchased the MRAP for $8,157.50. However, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office participated in the THV11/Arkansas Foodbank’s 14th Annual Summer Cereal Drive and in lieu of payment, collected 685 boxes of cereal that were turned into the foodbank as credit to cover the cost for the service fee, replacement tires, and shipping for the MRAP. The primary purpose of the MRAP for Jefferson County Sheriff's Office is to provide our deputies and Special Response Team with maximum ballistic protection when responding to an active shooter type incident. With its ruggedized design, the MRAP can also be used for disaster relief efforts because of its ability to navigate through almost any terrain.
“There are some misconceptions evident in the response and criticism of citizens and federal congressional leaders alike concerning the 1033 program. As a participating agency in the 1033 program and recipient of military surplus equipment such as our agencies newly acquired MRAP, I want to add some clarity to the topic.”
First, contrary to popular belief that our newly procured MRAP vehicle is a war zone “tank” or “terrorist” fighting machine is grossly misleading and alarmist. We have not purchased or procured none of the above.
A total of 165 of the surplus vehicles were provided last year to police departments nationwide as part of a national military surplus program started by President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. Arkansas received 14 MRAPS valued at $733,000.00 each.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office applied for the MRAP to repurpose as a ballistic capable rescue/tactical vehicle used to enhance officer and citizen safety when responding to active shooter type incidents.
When we took delivery of the MRAP, there was a no turret-mounted gun attached to the roof and such military-style weaponry is not essential or desired for the vehicle’s intended purpose as a tactical rescue vehicle. However, we would like to assure citizens that there is no machine gun mounted anywhere on the vehicle. The primary purpose of the MRAP for Jefferson County Sheriff's Office is to provide our deputies and Special Response Team with maximum ballistic protection when responding to an active shooter type incident. The MRAP will also be used for disaster relief efforts because it is capable of navigating through almost any type terrain.
“As you look across the country at active shooter situations happening every day, Jefferson County is not immune to the type of violence we have become all too familiar with over the past decades.”
Blacksburg, Va., was a small, quiet, college town with a population of just over 42,000 when a gunman killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus in April 2007.
Littleton, Colo., home of Columbine High School, is a small Denver suburb of 40,000, where two teenagers went on a rampage, killing 12 fellow students.
Newtown, Conn., a small town of 27,560, is sadly familiar to all of us after 20 children and six adults were gunned down at an elementary school there just over a year ago.
“Each of these towns are smaller than Pine Bluff. None of them expected their names to become synonymous with horrific, senseless violence. As the chief law enforcement agency in Jefferson County, we have a responsibility to the residents, businesses and visitors of Jefferson County to think about the unthinkable and to be prepared to take action to protect innocent lives. Our commitment to our community is that under our command we will always do everything in our power to promote the safety of our deputies that place their lives on the line each day so that citizens can have a sense of security.”