In the past year and a half, Osage County Sheriff Mike Bonham has received hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment for his department through a federal government program.
The Department of Defense's Logistics Agency has a Law Enforcement Support Office that transfers excess DoD property to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies within the United States and its territories.
"I'd say we have been vigilant in working to acquire these items," Bonham said. "I've gotten up at midnight to look at their website to see what changes or new items have been added. We've had great success with it."
Bonham said it's a competition to get this equipment.
"Federal agencies such as the FBI and CIA get the first crack, then it's state agencies like the Missouri Highway Patrol, and then it's the local agencies like us," Bonham said. "We're all fighting over the same types of property. It's first come, first served."
DoD records show several transfers to the Osage County Sheriff's Office were cancelled in April and June 2019 because the items had "already been approved for another agency" — items including a sedan the sheriff's department wanted to use to transfer evidence to a state lab and several small craft boats desired for search and rescue, flood duty and other law enforcement activities.
The equipment Bonham has received includes a 2005 four-wheeler and a 2007 1-ton truck.
"That truck only had around 22,000 miles on it, and we had to go to Arizona to get it and drive it back," Bonham said. "It was worth it, though, because we use it to pull equipment and as our evidence-collection vehicle. We would have never been able to afford getting this vehicle depending solely on our budget."
Also purchased with federal money were a 24-foot boat and a 26-foot boat with a working crane. Trailers, motors, computers and life jackets have also been purchased by Bonham's department in this manner.
Bonham said, in May, the 24-foot, tunnel-hulled boat he was using to inspect flood damage along the Osage River was a former U.S. Coast Guard craft, and the life jackets aboard had come from the Navy, Air Force and Army — the Army life jacket being bulletproof.
As of June 30, 2019, the DoD had transferred 206 items to the Osage County Sheriff's Office — all since the beginning of July 2018, according to DoD records.
The 206 items were all together worth more than $624,000, including 11 items from April and May 2019 worth more than $41,800.
Getting a fuller sense of how much federal property local law enforcement agencies have acquired would take further records requests.
DLA spokeswoman Michelle McCaskill said the quarterly-updated public records on the Law Enforcement Support Office's website include two types of property, and only one is kept posted on the site's databases for more than a year.
The DLA's inventory for local law enforcement agencies includes "general" property — furniture, computers, tools, "anything you could go purchase yourself" — and "controlled property," McCaskill said.
General property is the majority of what is provided to law enforcement, and that type of property is taken off the database after a year, she said.
That could be one reason a look at the records shows, for example, the Jefferson City Police Department acquired weapon sights in March 2015 and the Missouri Capitol Police acquired rifles in June 2007, but nothing since for either agency.
Controlled property — military-type vehicles, boats, aircraft, weapons — is still technically owned by the DoD, even after it's transferred to other agencies, McCaskill said.
Controlled property never comes off the database, and if a law enforcement agency decides it no longer wants a vehicle — for a reason such as the vehicle no longer works and isn't repairable — the property has to be turned back in to the DoD for proper disposal, she said.
"By acquiring this equipment, we've increased services to our citizens," Bonham said. "We now can do search and rescue, and we have a marine component. With our county, there aren't a lot of finances to go around, so those are two things we would couldn't do without this program.
"I want to add, we don't just throw people out there. There's training for those that would be operating this equipment."
While being able to get the equipment has been a blessing, Bonham said the other blessing is developing a close relationship with State Technical College of Missouri in Linn, whose students have been doing maintenance on many pieces of sheriff's department equipment. The labor is free, but the department pays for parts.
"We're going to continue to aggressively work to see at what we can get from the federal government," Bonham said. "Right now, we're looking to get a transport van, but many other departments are looking at getting the same thing."