US DOD program redistributes military gear to UT System police

Natalie Sullivan

Patrol rifles, Humvees  and a mine-resistant vehicle are among some of the military-grade equipment the UT System acquired under a U.S. Department of Defense program. Known as Section 1033, the program allows law enforcement agencies across the country, including the System police, to receive surplus military supplies from the government since 1997.

System spokeswoman Karen Adler said the program helps universities acquire supplies used by police in a cost-effective way.

“The UT System participates in the 1033 program so that we can acquire equipment necessary to protect students and staff at little or no cost to taxpayers,” Adler said.

According to Adler, the System has acquired several forms of military equipment, including rifles, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle and two Humvees over the past few years. Most of the equipment is used to fulfill policy requirements or protect police and victims in the event of an emergency, Adler said.

“The rifles acquired by the UT-Tyler police department, for example, fulfill a System policy that requires all System police officers to have access to a patrol rifle,” Adler said. “The two Humvees acquired by UT System are used by the System Rapid Response Team in the Rio Grande Valley to protect the UT-Brownsville and UT-Pan American campuses and would also be deployed elsewhere in the System, if needed.”

While one of the most intimidating pieces of equipment acquired does not carry weapons, it could also be used for either police or civilian protection in an emergency or natural disaster, Adler said.

“The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, was acquired this past spring and is located at UT System’s police academy,” Adler said. “It doesn’t carry any weapons, but it would be used to provide protection to officers or victims in the event of a catastrophic armed intruder or active shooter. The vehicle also would be used to access areas devastated by a natural disaster to locate and rescue survivors.”

UTPD spokeswoman Cindy Posey said UTPD had not received any equipment from the 1033 program, although it is part of the System.

Adler said universities are required to provide justification for why they need certain pieces of equipment.

“The process requires law enforcement agencies to apply through the Texas Department of Public Safety and submit justification,” Adler said.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety website, participating agencies in the program are given equipment free of charge and are prohibited from reselling or leasing the gear. They also must provide updates on the location of “tactical” gear, such as armored vehicles and weaponry. 

APD Lt. Kurt Rothert said APD has also received several items through the program, particularly military helmets and helicopter parts.

“We probably get around 400 to 500 helmets a year,” Rothert said. “They’re useful for crowd control situations, and being able to reuse items is a good use of money because, otherwise, we’d have to pay hundreds of dollars for them on the civilian market.”

Rothert said items are either transferred to other agencies or returned to the government after they have outlived their usefulness. 

Adler said all UT System officers go through a minimum of 833 hours of basic training, which reduces the possibility of any equipment misuse.

“Through training and policy, we bring to an absolute minimum any possibility that mistaken or inappropriate use of equipment could occur,” Adler said.