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Last Updated: Friday, 26 January 2007, 13:56 GMT
Choppers go cheap in US army sale
US police officer poses with second hand equipment
US police departments say the military clear-out saves them cash
Local sheriffs around the US seeking a few armoured fighting vehicles or a couple of attack helicopters are turning to the military for a bargain.

Thousands of police forces in the US have recently grabbed some 380,000 pieces of discounted military kit.

Some snapped up night vision goggles, while others asked for combat fatigues to help hunt drug dealers.

About 16,000 US departments obtained equipment during 2005, worth some $124m (63m), the Associated Press found.

The news agency asked the US Department of Defense to release an analysis of each state's second-hand trading during the 2005 financial year.

'Bargain basement'

The results revealed a roaring trade in military equipment now surplus to requirement on the 21st Century battlefield.

Many smaller items, ranging from helmets to rifles, are essentially free apart from shipping costs.

Other "big ticket" requisitions, such as weapons, vehicles or boats, come at a fee, but one much lower than charged on the open market.

Officials in Buck County, Pennsylvania, bought two armoured vehicles to protect their officers during hostage negotiation stand-offs.

California: $17m worth
Indiana: $10.5m
North Carolina: $10m
Source: AP
That saved local taxpayers an estimated $140,000 (70,000), they say.

Several 1970s helicopters appear to have found a new lease of life near Birmingham, Alabama - although one has been cannibalised for spare parts.

Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale said he balked at paying $1 million for a brand new chopper, preferring to put his faith in the "bargain basement" instead.

"The product we put out is a first-class helicopter."

The programme is run by the Defense Logistics Agency, a branch of the Department of Defense.

It was set up in the 1990s to transfer surplus military parts to police for anti-drug and anti-terrorism operations.

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