Military equipment making its way to western Washington streets

by: Henry Rosoff Updated:


The devices look like they belong on the battlefield, but more and more military equipment is making its way into the hands of local law enforcement.

With the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, police departments are getting a lot of military surplus gear through something known as the “1033 program.”  Lynnwood police recently got a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, to use with the North Sound metro SWAT team.  It’s worth about $658,000, and the police department just had to pay a small administrative fee and transport costs.

The King County Sheriff’s Office recently got a helicopter, valued at almost $1 million.  It will be an upgrade to the current search and rescue chopper after it’s restored. 

“I mean, we’ve already paid for it once through federal tax so why not put it back in the local economy?” said Deputy Guy Herndon, with the Sheriff’s Office.  “Wherever we can find money to not tap into the pocketbooks of regular King County residents is great.”

Police Cmdr. Chuck Steichen secured the MRAP for the SWAT team. 

“There’s supposed to be a lot more equipment that’ll become available during the next year or two as the drawdown really finishes up,” he said. 

Western Washington law enforcement agencies are taking advantage of the program.  KIRO 7 obtained records for everything requested during the last two years and carefully searched for equipment that might seem unnecessary or strange.  There were roughly 300 items valued at nearly $2.5 million. 

Much of the equipment was small stuff like backpacks, desks and rifles.  While that’s not as impressive or noticeable as armored vehicles and helicopters, it is a huge savings.