Editor's note: The following report is the third in a multi-part series on the topic of the militarization of law enforcement. The report examines the issue from multiple perspectives in Young County.
From behind the eastern wall of the Young County Sheriff's Department/Detention Center, Deputy Jim Budarf opens the thick, heavy back door of its newest acquisition, a six-by-six (six wheels, six-wheel drive) armored vehicle last owned by the U.S. military. Budarf and deputies Nathan Bueno and Chris Moody headed for El Paso on Monday, Aug. 18 to pick it up at Fort Bliss and returned with it Tuesday, Aug. 19.
The sheriff's department applied for and received the armored vehicle through the Texas 1033 Military Surplus Program.
“The DPS runs the state's 1033 program,” Budarf explained. “But it's all a nationwide system. So, the Defense Logistics Agency from the military, they contract out and each state has its own office. So, a couple of guys down in Austin handle all of the distribution for all of the Army surplus for the area.”
Budarf, who handles all 1033 program applications and acquisitions locally, said that the sheriff's office applied for the MRAP, or mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, back in 2013.
“We started the application process, and then Laredo, Texas, sent out a broadcast and said, ‘Hey, we have this armored vehicle for anybody that wants it,'” the deputy said. “Well, we didn't know if we were getting the MRAP or not because there was a long list of people who wanted it.”
Hedging his bets, Budarf applied for the armored vehicle in Laredo as well, and to their surprise, the Young County Sheriff's Department ended up with both the MRAP from El Paso and the armored car from Laredo.
The MRAP that the deputies just brought back is in full working order, but the vehicle from Laredo, called the REVA, which stands for “reliable, effective, versatile and affordable,” is not in full working order.
“It runs,” Budarf said. “There's still some things wrong with it, but it's not 100 percent functional. But the MRAP we got is in excellent condition. It drives great, everything is in good shape, and the engine and all of the internals are fine.”
Both Walls and Budarf say that with all of the national talk about the militarization of law enforcement agencies, there are certain situations in which having an armored vehicle provides more peace of mind.
“If you take into consideration a hostage situation or the Newcastle bank being robbed, for example, I mean, there's no law enforcement over there,” Walls said. “We are, but we're not right there like if it was a bank here in Graham. We've got schools that we could help with it, if need be.
“You know, the main thing is, if we were in a situation where we had people barricaded in a house firing at us and we're sitting behind Tahoes thinking ‘God, is this my night?' (It's much better if) we can just drive that thing (the armored vehicle) right up there to the front door and they can shoot at us all they want to.”
Walls said that the vehicle also has uses beyond emergency violent crime scenarios.
“In natural disasters, for example, if you get flooding, you can pull that thing up,” he said. “If we had to rescue someone (in a flood), we could haul that thing right down in there.”
Budarf added that the vehicle's height also makes it ideal for any kind of active-shooter situation requiring access to a building's second story, and because the Young County Sheriff's Department is a part of the regional S.W.A.T. team, the vehicle can also assist situations in Jack, Palo Pinto, Throckmorton, Young, Stephens and Archer counties.
During last Monday's Young County Commissioners Court meeting, Commissioner Mike Sipes brought up a concern that the military could possibly take back its equipment.
Read the entire story in the weekend edition of the Graham Leader.