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Precinct 4’s New Rescue Vehicle (Military Surplus Acquisition)

The Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office recently received a military surplus armored vehicle, free of charge, through the Department of Defense, which will be repurposed to benefit the civilian and law enforcement community. Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden planned to announce and unveil the vehicle after final preparations were complete, when it will transport items to schools that were collected for underprivileged children during the annual Precinct 4 School Supply Drive.

“Unfortunately, recent events in other states have helped to spread agenda driven propaganda and that has reached all the way to area news media and caused public concern regarding the acquisition of surplus vehicles,” Constable Hayden said. “As a result, I feel it is in everyone’s best interest to provide residents of Precinct 4 with as much information as possible to quell any fears of the so-called ‘militarization of local law enforcement’ that I believe has been, in most cases, inaccurately portrayed.”

Most Americans are unaware that the concept of surplus military items distributed to non-military agencies is not new. In 1990, Congress enacted the National Defense Authorization Act (also known as the 1208 Program), which enabled Federal and State agencies to utilize various items including arms and ammunition in “counter-drug activities.” Six years later, Congress replaced Section 1208 with the current 1033 Program, which allows local law enforcement to benefit from surplus military items. Other types of agencies also receive surplus items. Until recently, the practice went mostly unnoticed. That’s probably because according to data NPR obtained from the Pentagon, between 2006 and April 2014, only 3 percent of surplus items they distributed were weaponry. Other items included everything from building materials and musical instruments to toiletries.

“The vehicle now in the possession of the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office will be utilized primarily for access during severe weather from storms to Hurricanes,” Constable Hayden said. “East Montgomery County has more than its share of low lying areas that flood quickly, often leaving people stranded and in need of rescue. Factors such the exhaust going through the top of the vehicle, and the weight preventing strong winds or swift water from overturning it or sweeping it away, give the armored vehicle a major advantage over a typical 4-wheel drive vehicle or even any standard fire apparatus.”

There are also many heavily wooded areas where overturned trees, not to mention other debris, can be a major obstacle to reaching someone in crisis during a disaster.

A case in point was revealed when Alan F. Estevez, the principal deputy under the secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, who oversees the Department of Defense’s transfer of unneeded military equipment to local police testified in recent Senate hearings regarding the 1033 Program. Estevez said surplus military vehicles obtained through the program were used by Jersey Shore police in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to save a total of 64 people because they were able to pass through water too deep for typical commercial vehicles.

“The Porter Fire Department also has a surplus military vehicle and Chief Johnson and I have discussed the possibility of utilizing both vehicles during times of emergency,” Constable Hayden said. “If the vehicle is used in a capacity other than rescue, it will serve as protection.”

There could be an active shooter situation at a school, business, or another area where the vehicle could be used to shield civilians and law enforcement from gunfire and possibly transport civilians to safety, he said.

“While some media has focused on the size of the departments receiving the equipment, it is important to note that active shooter situations can occur anywhere, at any time, and many of the multiple fatality incidents in recent years have occurred in suburban or rural communities and not in the middle of large cities,” Constable Hayden said. “It also important to note that US 59, which runs through the middle of East Montgomery County, is a heavily used drug trafficking corridor, which adds to the potential for dangerous situations where a vehicle that would deflect gunfire even from military style firearms could save lives.”

Not all of the concerns expressed have been related militarization. In some areas, people had questions regarding the cost of upkeep on the surplus vehicles. All maintenance on the Precinct 4 vehicle will be funded through asset forfeiture, Constable Hayden said.

“I’ve also seen the news reports about people who believe these surplus vehicles will be used by will local police to assist the government in disarming civilians,” Constable Hayden said. “There is absolutely no cause for alarm, because I would never be a part of such an action, nor would I support one, and the acquisition of this vehicle was for the purpose of saving lives.”

Constable Hayden and Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts are staunch supporters of the Second Amendment and traveled to Austin last year to speak to a House subcommittee in support of a bill guaranteeing the rights of gun owners in Texas.

“I believe the residents of Precinct 4 know my first priority is their safety,” Constable Hayden said. “If this vehicle only saves one person, then it was worth the effort it took to obtain and repurpose it, and whatever controversy may come along with it.”

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