Federal anti-terrorism grants have given Tennessee cities and counties emergency response equipment that, a decade ago, they couldn't have tried to buy in their dreams, The Tennessean reports. The money was real: $192 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that paid for remote-controlled bomb-handling robots; special equipment for collapsed building rescues; high-tech surveillance cameras; all sorts of boots, masks, and body armor; and food for police dogs. There was even a training seminar about how to apply for more money.
Now, cities and counties are being asked to maintain all the high-tech gadgetry they obtained. Among the most coveted pieces is the armored Bearcat, a paramilitary vehicle with a gun turret on top and the ability to drive directly into an explosive or hazardous “hot zone.” Nashville police got one funded for $89,000 and have rolled it out about 175 times since 2009, including during barricades and high-risk searches. Some equipment sits on shelves. “This year for the first time, DHS is encouraging sustainment,” said Rick Shipkowski, deputy Homeland Security adviser for Tennessee. “They realize they have put billions of dollars into this program and have capabilities people couldn't have dreamed of years ago, and it would be a shame to see those go to waste if we don't prioritize sustaining them.”