Brunswick commissioners OK funds for sheriff’s office to purchase riot gear, maintain helicopter

PortCityDaily.com is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Federal drug seizure money will be used to purchase riot gear and to help maintain the Brunswick County Sheriff”s Office helicopter this year, according to Sheriff John Ingram.

Brunswick County commissioners recently appropriated $16,636 in federal drug seizure money the sheriff’s office to fund the purchase, which Ingram said is amount needed for to cover the two items.

The money is coming from more than $84,700 the sheriff’s office received this year in federal drug seizure money between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014, from investigations that have occurred over the course of several years. The funds include money or property seized in drug investigations or the seizure of assets in weapons investigations, according to Ingram.

The sheriff’s office often uses the federal drug seizure money to purchase items that may not otherwise be within the original budget, Ingram said. While the federal guidelines for the use of the funds are strict, Ingram said the money can be used for a variety of purchases.

Since the sheriff’s office did not have any riot gear, Ingram said it was included in this year’s purchase.

The riot gear, which includes helmets and face protection, will be used on the streets and in the jail.

“[The gear] can be utilized in our detention facility to help if we have an issue back there,” Ingram said. “It’s just equipment that helps protect our officers and help protect people that we’re dealing with, whether it’s on the street or in the facility.”

Ingram said the potential for a riot exists with the number of inmates at the facility, who are required by law to be let out into a common area at certain times.

“When we do have [riots], we want to be able to respond and control the situation if something happens. And that gear will be right near our facility in case something happens. It’s multi-purpose. It’s protection,” Ingram said.

The sheriff’s office will also use the federal funds for routine maintenance of its helicopter, which is required annually to keep it running, Ingram said. The helicopter is used in searches and assists in other investigations.

The cycle of federal drug money

Ingram did not have a timeline on when the money will be used again but said, that along with the current items in line for purchase, the money also goes into equipment that assists drug agents in those very investigations that federal drug money comes from.

According to Ingram, it’s not about the money; it’s about stopping drug organizations that help spread heroin, cocaine and other illegal substances throughout the community.

“We are not in the business just to seize assets…our main focus is getting the drugs off the street and getting the people responsible for them behind bars. And if, during the course of the investigation, there are assets that would effectively disrupt that organization and we have the ability to seize them. That’s how we’ll essentially handle it.

“That’s the way you start to make a positive impact–affecting the assets of these drug organizations whether it’s a major cartel organization internationally or a local drug organization. If you start impacting those assets involved in illegal selling of drugs…then you really can impact that organization’s ability to operate effectively,” Ingram said.

The drug agents at the sheriff’s office have been responsible for taking back some of the streets “that were once overrun by drug activity,” Ingram said.

The federal money provides detectives with the tools needed to effectively collect evidence and record cases, as well as purchase items to help keep them safe when doing their jobs, Ingram said.

“They are in high risk situations,” Ingram said about sheriff’s deputies and drug agents.”They put their lives on the line to get this heroin and the cocaine and the variety of the drugs that come in off the streets…they’re the ones that are trying to make a difference in our community. And people are extremely thankful for their efforts.”