BRISTOL, Va. - While many police and emergency departments are suffering from budget cuts, they are finding help preventing terrorist attacks from Homeland Security grants.
?I don't know of any department that can come up with $300,000 on their own,? explained Lt. Charles Robinette with the Bristol, Virginia Police Department. The lack of funding from the cities and counties is why police departments in Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia are applying for money once again through the Homeland Security Grant Program.
Robinette said they use the money to buy big-ticket items they usually couldn?t afford, especially during these tough economic times. "It's expensive. Normally the department wouldn't be able to put those kinds of funds towards equipment like this to serve the citizens,? he said.
The Bristol, Virginia Police Department got a 22,000 pound armored BearCat vehicle for about $270,000 in grant money about two years ago. Robinette said it is rolled out about every-other-time the SWAT team is deployed, especially in hostage, barricade and active shooter situations. "You can't put a price on an officer's life. If it takes a piece of equipment like this to save one life, then I'd say it's worth it,? he explained.
The amount of money given to the states for these grants continues to increase. In 2010, the budget for the State Homeland Security Grant Program was $852 million. For the 2012 fiscal year, the budget increased to $1 billion.
"The best piece of equipment we got through the Department of Homeland Security funding is our bomb mitigation robot," said Lt. Terry Johnson with the Bristol, Tennessee Police Department. Johnson, who is over the bomb squad and SWAT team, said there continues to be more focus on training, preparation and prevention of terrorist attacks. ?A certain percentage of the money sent down is dedicated for bomb mitigation,? Johnson said. "Since September 11, 2001 the focus has definitely been more towards bombs."
The Director of the Sullivan County EMA said the county got about $300,000 last year in grant money. The Sullivan County Sheriff?s Department has used the funds to buy boats to patrol area lakes and horse trailers for their mounted patrol units.