Controversial program gives tanks, grenade launchers to local police

How and why Florida officials are getting gear meant for war

That means a bullet proof and mine-resistant tank built for war is now on the front lines in Baker County, Fla.

The Baker County Sheriff’s Office said the equipment is less about handling riots and more about rescue missions.

“Rescue of our persons or people in a storm or something else,” said Lt. Chris Volz. “A child from a school or an active shooter situation.”

The county recently acquired the vehicle through the LESO 1033 program. It gives local law enforcement agencies equipment the military doesn’t want or need anymore.

“Having something like this, I don’t know that you can put a price on it,” said Volz.

Valued at $412,000, the tank only cost taxpayers a $2,000 acquisition fee.

 “I think it’s awesome, really awesome,” said Baker County resident Regina Reneau.

“That is crazy and that’s unnecessary,” said another resident, Isaac Simmons.

The Baker County Sheriff’s department isn’t the only Florida law enforcement agency using the LESO 1033 program. Over the past 10 years, plenty of police and sheriff’s departments in Northeast Florida have received millions of dollars worth of military-grade gear.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office received two helicopters through the LESO 1033 program; eight utility trucks went to Putnam County; an explosive disposal robot went to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office; the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office received a high-powered weather unit; and Bradford County got military rifles.

The equipment may come at a minimal cost, but each agency is responsible for maintenance.

In Baker County, the Sheriff’s Office hopes grant money will pay for some small modifications, then deputies will be trained on it.

“We hope that there’s not a situation that we have to have an armored vehicle to protect us from gunfire or other types of things,” said Volz.

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