Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sheriff Roundtree Equipped to Deal with "Gun Everywhere"

AUGUSTA, GA  - Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree announced the acquisition of equipments this year. It should be noted that the amount on the list is the value of the equipment however the RCSO paid nothing for these items as they were awarded to the agency as surplus items from the military.

"One of the most challenging problems that the Sheriff’s Office faces is the acquisition of advanced equipment while staying within the guidelines of current budget restraints. We realize that the Sheriff’s Office must do its part in trying to reduce spending and that there are some items that we must do without.

However, besides keeping the peace, another Constitutional mandate of the Office of the Sheriff is the rendering of services and protection of property during civil emergencies and natural disasters. That is why approximately 8 months ago, we tasked our Special Projects Division to locate and obtain government surplus items that we could convert to local Law Enforcement use.

We were awarded our first Items in January of this year. Besides the economic value, one of these acquisitions proved to be invaluable immediately upon their arrival.

Three days before the February ice storm hit, the last of 12 Humvees arrived in Augusta. Un-serviced and untested, theses Humvees were used to transport medical personnel to and from area hospitals, emergency workers to Ft. Gordon and to rescue stranded citizens and transport them to emergency shelters.

The extremely large vehicle you see in the picture is the Caiman 6x6 mine resistant, ambush protected tactical vehicle or (MRAP) for short with its ballistic protection, it will allow special weapons and tactics (SWAT) operators and tactical paramedics to be protected from gunfire while moving about a dangerous scene. This vehicle can be used to rescue people who are pinned down by gunfire, or have been injured or wounded. This vehicle can also rescue victims of flooding and other disasters. Armored rescue vehicles can navigate areas traditional response vehicles cannot, such as the sites of Snowstorms, tornadoes or hurricanes.

Another mandate of any Sheriff’s Office in Georgia whose county boarders any waterways is to enforce the laws and regulations of the “Georgia Boat Safety Act.” Therefore, one of our newest acquisitions is this 19ft. Nitro Bay patrol boat. The Sheriff's Office along with the Dept. of Natural Resources will provide Patrol on the Savannah River during peak times of the boating season to include this 4th of July weekend. In addition to this boat, we also have acquired a 32 watercraft equipped with radar & sonar capabilities which we have already used to assist the Army corps of engineers with the inspection of the locks.

Both watercrafts will manned by certified deputies who have completed training in Georgia boating laws and boater safety.

RCSO is a regional support agency. We provide assistance and tactical support to multiple counties and communities with our equipment, manpower, & skills. This also includes Plant Vogel, the National Security Agency and Ft. Gordon. So these acquisitions aren’t just good for Richmond Co they are good for every county and community that surrounds us.

Besides the items that you see here today, In a 6 month period, we have acquired over 100 separate line items totaling almost 3.5 million dollars in supplies and equipment with absolutely $0 cost to the taxpayers of Richmond County. All of the items were awarded to the Sheriff’s Office free of charge and any monies used to transport and/or ship these items were done so using asset forfeiture funds, which legally can only be used for equipment or training.

The success of this project has been greater than we anticipated and we hope that its continued success will allow us to start reducing our operations cost thus saving the taxpayers money while providing a greater level of service for the citizens of Richmond County." Roundtree said in a statement on Facebook.

Cost of Maintenance 

According to Wikipedia, since becoming available in the summer of 2013, 165 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles had been acquired by police and sheriff’s departments. The American Civil Liberties Union has concerns of "increasing militarization of the nation’s police," and that the military hardware could escalate violent situations. Many vehicles have been obtained by rural police with few officers or crime. 

Police have rejected the notion of militarization and maintain that an MRAP would be an addition to their inventory to be prepared for any situation, with the main purpose of protecting occupants. Police in Boise, Idaho used their vehicles to serve a warrant to a suspect that was thought to be armed, and was found with two guns and 100 lb (45 kg) of explosive material. One was placed in front of officers to protect from a possible explosion. 

The Albany County Sheriff's Department has received an MRAP, which will be used alongside military surplus Humvees that have already been used for storm evacuations and to pull downed trees. About 150 other surplus vehicles, including Humvees, are in use by police departments in situations that the MRAPs could be used in. 731 more MRAPs are requested for domestic use. Though the vehicles are obtained for free, they have drawbacks for law enforcement. Some types weigh as much as 18 tons, which limits mobility on certain bridges, roads, and uneven ground. Fuel efficiency can be as little as 5 miles per gallon. Refitting a vehicle with a closed turret, black paint, new seating, loudspeakers, and emergency lights can cost around $70,000.

The Defense Logistics Agency is in charge of off-loading 13,000 MRAPs to 780 domestic law enforcement agencies on waiting lists for vehicles. The DLA does not transfer property to the agencies, so the vehicles are allocated to the agencies with costs picked up by them or the state, while the vehicles still remain property of the Defense Department. 

To receive an armored vehicle, a requesting agency has to meet certain criteria including justification for use like for shooting incidents, SWAT operations, and drug interdiction, geographical area and multi-jurisdiction use, ability to pay for repairs and maintenance, and security and restricted access to the vehicle. The goal is to keep citizens in their jurisdiction safe from terrorist and criminal drug activity.

No word from RCSO about the cost of maintaining all these equipment and where the money will come from. UPDATE 7/8/2014: Response on Facebook by the RCSO:

“We already have maintenance personnel for vehicles - parts will be needed if used just as any equipment that is needed and used would need parts from time to time. If they were used to save your life or that of a family member I doubt you would care about the small cost of a part to maintain a needed item or what it cost to transport the Doctors, 911 personnel, etc. during the ice storm.”

The announcement coincides with the day the Safe Carry Protection Act goes into effect.

Georgia residents can carry guns into bars, nightclubs, school classrooms, and certain government buildings that lack security personnel or devices – with a license to carry.

The legislation also provides religious and school leaders the option to “opt in” to allow guns on their worship premises, and grants access to permit-holders to carry guns into Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints in airports without penalty.

Georgia had the highest number of gun deaths per capita among the 50 states in one year, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Firearm-related deaths and injuries result in estimated medical costs of $2.3 billion each year – half of which are borne by U.S. taxpayers.

Once all the direct and indirect medical, legal and societal costs are factored together, the annual cost of gun violence in America amounts to $100 billion, a post from 2012.

Promoters of the law see it as an effective tool to deter criminals and people against the law also known as "gun everywhere" are worry about making the Stand Your Ground law even worse, among other issues such as the financial burden for all the parties involved and the collateral consequences.

<-> Edited by Anibal Ibarra


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