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Military gear aids deputies in natural disasters, finding missing people

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CHEROKEE COUNTY, NC (WRCB) -  Many law enforcement agencies now have military gear alongside their standard police equipment, and Cherokee County Sheriff's Office has over a million dollars' worth.

Sheriff Keith Lovin said their military gear has already helped out during natural disasters and other local emergencies. It's equipment they couldn't otherwise afford.

"I know sometimes military equipment kind of sends a message," said Lovin. "Well, my son served in Iraq. And that right there kept him alive for a year," he said, motioning at a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle parked behind the Sheriff's Office.

The department has acquired roughly $1.5 million in military gear. It includes 18 guns, 2 humvees, 12 tents, a dump truck, a communications truck, an armored vehicle, a fuel truck, bus and helicopter.

They were obtained through the free Law Enforcement Support Services Program, Lovin said.

"They're not costing us anything just to have them in case we do need them," he said.

According to Lovin, two volunteers fly the chopper. Fuel and insurance is covered by state drug tax money.

Although the helicopter hasn't taken flight this year, its log shows that it has been a useful resource over the past few years -- finding lost people and stolen property.

It also helps track down drugs and aids with natural disasters. When a tornado tore through the county in 2012, it carved a 23-mile path of destruction.

"We were able to take our own helicopter up, look at that damage, see places we needed to direct resources to get roads open and serve people," Lovin said.

Tents are used the most, usually for community events. The mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle obtained last year hasn't been used yet.

"We may never need it," Lovin said. "I hope we never do. But if we need it, and it's there to save a life, then it's paid for itself."

Last year over 2,000 police agencies across the country requested military gear. In 2014, more than 12-hundred agencies have requested it.
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