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Law enforcement agencies jockey for military surplus

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Some West Michigan law enforcement agencies are in line to receive military vehicles just months after the federal government asked for some items given to law enforcement to be returned.

Newschannel 3 talked to Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller, as Kalamazoo County is one of the agencies on the list to receive one of the specialty vehicles.

Sheriff Fuller says they've been waiting for a long time to get one of these vehicles, to help keep deputies and the public safe.

It's called a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP for short. And it could be making it's way to Kalamazoo County.

"The MRAP is basically a steel box on wheels," Fuller said.

Sheriff Fuller says changing times require police departments to equip themselves with more than just the standard police gear.

"We recognize that our world is one where we as law enforcement agencies can be involved in tense situations that firearms involved, and if we can have steel box that I can have a police officer in to be in an area to rescue somebody or to protect themselves we are going to utilize those pieces of equipment," Fuller said.

This won't be the first time Fuller has used the military surplus program, allowing police departments to receive equipment the military no longer wants, for next to nothing.

"We've picked up some hospital beds for the jail, we've picked up blankets, soap, sleeping bags, all kinds of different things," Fuller said. "Those are things that we are constantly looking for trying to augment our everyday operations with things the federal government is going to dispose of."

But just a few months ago, the federal government had asked law enforcement agencies to return some more controversial equipment.

"Maybe because it looks like a tank, that's why the federal government felt that it they needed to go back," Fuller said.

Fuller says his department tries to only order what they truly need.

"We had none of the equipment that was on the list, most of that equipment was the track vehicles things like that," he said.

Battle Creek Police are also on the list to receive one of the vehicles.

Chief Jim Blocker tells us it's meant to replace an older model they already have.