Georgetown police benefit from military surplus items

GEORGETOWN, Ky. (WKYT) - Police reaction to riots in Ferguson, Missouri is shining a spotlight on law enforcement across the country. Images of officers carrying military-grade weapons and driving in vehicles made for soldiers makes many uneasy.

The Georgetown police force uses one of the largest collections of military-grade gear in the state.

Law enforcement across the country has access to military surplus equipment. Hundreds of thousands of weapons, vehicles, and supplies are all provided for free.

"If we didn't use these weapons that we got from the military, we would be using your local tax dollars to buy those weapons," Georgetown Police Chief Michael Bosse says.

In an open records request, Kentucky State Police released to WKYT a complete, statewide inventory for the military surplus equipment program. Georgetown Police have acquired several trucks, an ATV, wrenches, wire cutters, flashlights, blankets, trauma kits, jackets, shirts and socks, and more than 80 guns.

"I think it's important that the public understand that those weapons are surplus weapons from the military. We take them and modify them into exactly what you can buy at the Walmart stores here, in most cities," Bosse says.

The weapons are the target of people worried about the program, and what they call the militarization of police, a phrase Chief Michael Bosse calls unfair.

"Our officers are not routinely answering calls with rifles or shotguns in their hand. But there are occasions, very limited occasions in law enforcement where you have someone that's in a school, that's in a bank, that's in one of our very large local industries and they're doing damage and they're hurting people. Without those weapons, our response to that incident would be much slower," Bosse says.

Chief Bosse tells WKYT that you're far more likely to see the vehicles parked than you are out on the streets. Like a lot of their equipment, it's only used for emergencies.

"We use those mostly in the winter time for delivering prescription drugs, taking people who are afraid to get out under those conditions to their dialysis, and their doctors appointments," Bosse says.

WKYT spoke to the Whitley County Sheriff, the Franklin County Sheriff, and a deputy with the Laurel County Sheriff's Office and all tell WKYT's Kristen Kennedy the program has saved their counties a lot of money.

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