Mohave County Board of Supervisors eye military surplus program

May 2, 2019

Next week, the Mohave County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on whether it will continue a program providing access to military surplus equivalent for law enforcement officials.

The U.S. Department of Defense has for decades offered surplus equipment in the form of M-15 rifles, night vision goggles, combat knives, hazmat explosives removal robots, mine-resistant vehicles and military field packs to law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The program is administered and overseen by the Arizona Public Safety Procurement Program, which allows Mohave County to be eligible to receive such equipment under the Federal Excess Property 1033 Program.

Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson served as a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles County prior to moving to Mohave County more than 30 years ago. He supports the program, he said on Tuesday.

“We had it in L.A. County,” Johnson said. “It really expanded our ability to provide law enforcement to our residents. But things are different here than in L.A. – there are some things we could get, but the cost of maintenance would be too high. We’ve had things like that happen before … a few years ago we got several helicopters through the program, but we couldn’t maintain them. Another county wanted them, and we gave them away.”

The program hasn’t always been a success in the eyes of Mohave County residents, who in 2014 issued complaints about the acquisition of a mine-resistant armored patrol by the Sheriff’s Department. It would have been a necessary tool in law enforcement, as the only armored vehicle in the Sheriff’s Department’s fleet of vehicles, according to statements by former Sheriff Jim McCabe. The armored vehicle was ultimately returned to the Department of Defense.

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Department has long benefited from the program, most recently acquiring five surplus Humvees at a cost of $2,500 for delivery – a nearly $200,000 discount compared to the cost of purchasing civilian models. The county would only pay a fee of $250 for administrative costs in continuing its enrollment in the program.

With fewer than 85 deputies on the sheriff’s staff to patrol Mohave County – the fifth-largest county in the U.S. – Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster is expected to present his department’s future needs and plans for the next 10 years, at the board’s May 17 budgetary work session in Kingman.

Representatives from the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office were unavailable for comment as of Wednesday evening.