Storm Lake (ABC9 News)- Shocking Images of police with tanks, high powered weapons, and gas masks have flooded news outlets. The riots in Ferguson, Missouri have left Americans wondering why police officers have military equipment at all. Thanks to a program called 1033 surplus equipment is given away for free to law enforcement across the country.
"It's just not about a law enforcement or police tactics. It's about the local government utilizing programs to get equipment for their first responders and other city services that otherwise would rust and not be used," said Mark Prosser the Storm Lake Police Chief.
Buena Vista County is listed as number one in Iowa for receiving the most military surplus. The sheriff's office and Storm Lake police department have acquired things like mine resistant vehicles, night vision goggles and old military rifles and shotguns, well over one million dollars in free gear.
But they say no one should be alarmed, they've been using the program since the 90's and not everything is as intimidating.
Doug Simons, Buena Vista County Sheriff
" We have AED's, the difibrulator devices. We have walkie talkies, life jackets, there's several clothing items, cold weather, extreme gear, that we would not have the funding, or the taxpayer burden is not there to fill," said Doug Simons the Buena Vista County Sheriff.
Law enforcement adds, much of the big gear gets rarely used, if ever, but say when it comes to lives on the line, they're better safe than sorry.
"I think the most important part of this is that if we're able to save one life, or one officers life, what is the value of this property then," Simons pointed out.