Jones acquired the Humvee through a government exchange program allowing law enforcement agencies to acquire surplus military gear. Agencies can apply for anything from boots and unforms to firearms and vehicles. Even armored personnel carriers and helicopters are part of the program. The departments are only required to demonstrate a need for the equipment and prove they can maintain a budget for a vehicle. While the department could not afford something as expensive as a helicopter, Jones said maintenance for the Humvee would be affordable.
“Maintenance on these things is very small. It’s just like any other vehicle,” he said. “It runs off diesel so it’s going to be just a tad more expensive, but it’s not an everyday use vehicle either. Of course, with a diesel engine, you’ll get many more miles than you will out of a gasoline engine, and that vehicle only has close to 26,000 miles on it. You’re looking at the lifetime of that vehicle is probably my tenure.”
Thanks to the exchange program, Adairsville got the Humvee at no cost to the city’s taxpayers.
“When the military can’t use it anymore then law enforcement gets it, so the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth,” Jones said. “It is basically like an infinite loan. As long as we want to keep it, we can keep it. We can’t ever sell it.”
The vehicle is valued at $38,000 in its current condition. If it were brand new it would be worth approximately $80,000. Jones said his officers thought the Air Force was the Humvee’s previous owner, as the vehicle is very clean and its undercarriage shows no signs of being driven off-road.
The Humvee will serve in two capacities. In inclement weather the department will use it to respond to distress calls and provide any needed towing. It also will serve as a vehicle for the department’s recently formed Tactical Operations unit.
“We’re going to use it for our tactical response team. It’s a very limited team and their capabilities are very limited. We still heavily rely on the Sheriff’s Office as far as a SWAT situation,” Jones said. “These guys are capable of serving high-risk warrants, arrest warrants and narcotics warrants. That that’s what they’re trained to do.”
The tactical unit is the starting point for an expansion of the police department. Jones hopes the city will one day have a SWAT team of its own, even if it is a volunteer unit.
“It’s just a step closer for the Adairsville Police Department to try to handle as much of Adairsville’s problems as we can,” he said.
The tactical unit is formed of Adairsville police officers who volunteer their free time for training. None of the officers were required to join the unit and those who did join are not paid.
The unit, lead by Sgt. Arnold Gillman, gathered at the department’s makeshift firing and training range Friday afternoon. The range is at the city’s sewage processing plant, where the department commandered an unused drying bed. A series of targets were put up at the far end, while two plywood dividers served as walls and doorways for training exercises.
The tactical unit practiced entering the makeshift room using different methods while their firearms were unloaded. Jones walked alongside them to make sure their weapons were not pointed at each other and that they did not put other officers in their lines of fire when they entered the room. Once he was satisfied with their movements, he allowed them to load their weapons for their first exercise using live ammunition.
As the five men walked through the door, following the lead officer with a riot shield, Jones waited for them to fan out into a line before yelling “threat.” All five officers fired at their targets, filling them with 9 millimeter holes. Jones said he was pleased with their accuracy.
Capt. Doug Simons, who serves as the team commander and sniper, trained with the team in providing fire support. In a number of exercises, Simons practiced firing at a nearby target as the tactical unit entered the room. Jones said Simons would be able to hit a target within inches of an officer without injuring them.
Jones added that Simons had served as a SWAT team commander in Cobb County and Gillman led a tactical unit when he worked in Calhoun.
“So we’ve got people in place who know all about tactical situations,” Jones said about the training. “It’s just getting our officers on the same page.”
For Gillman, the tactical unit offers advantages for both Adairsville police officers and citizens.
“It’s valuable for the individual officer because it provides them with the additional training that each of them desire, as far as your SWAT training, your weapons training, long guns, handguns, tactical operations, hand-to-hand combat, tactical movement, there’s just a wide variety of different training that they’ll acquire. ... For the majority, it will be all in-house.
“We’re here for the city. We’re here to attain training and make each individual officer better at what they do and ultimately for the citizens of Adairsville.”