The Investigators

Jan 9, 2014 12:29 AM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham

Homeland Security sends millions to southern Arizona first-responders

It's been more than a dozen years since the 9-11 attacks, and the creation of the federal Department of Homeland Security. In that time, billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars have been spent to help keep our nation secure. But, how much of that money actually ends up in Tucson?

The News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to find out the amount of Homeland Security funding that has made its way to local first responders, including Tucson Police, Tucson Fire, and the Pima County Sheriff's Department over the past several years.

The funds go to pay for everything from employee overtime, to purchasing state-of-the-art equipment.

The money is administered through the Arizona Department of Homeland Security.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators sent the department a freedom of information act request, and we've been pouring over those numbers. Here are some highlights:

We learned that in 2011, the Tucson Police Department received more than $136,000 from DHS.

The same year the Tucson Fire Department received a federal grant of $75,000.

So, where does that money go?

Deputy Tucson Fire Chief Casey Justin tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, TFD's ability to get funding from the federal government through the state allows them to conduct specialized training, and buy specialized equipment. It also helps the department stay up to date with the tools they need to help keep the community safe. That includes tools to respond to HAZ-MAT situations, mass-casualty incidents, to pay crews overtime, and more.

"Its training and equipment that we otherwise would not be able to acquire if it weren't for these funds," Justin says.

In 2012, TFD received $65,000 from the Department of Homeland Security. That same year, Tucson Police got a $48,000 DHS grant to be used for air-time for the ‘Coplink' system. It's a specialized computer network that allows law enforcement agencies to access and share information with one another at their desk, or out on the streets.

On the county side, in 2011, the Pima County Sheriff's Department received $50,000 in funds from DHS.

Captain Chris Nanos, Bureau Chief, tells the News 4 Tucson Investigators, those DHS funds, for things like the Sheriff's Border Crimes Unit, helps with equipment purchases, including quads or command posts. It also strengthens cooperation with other agencies, including the U.S. Border Patrol.

"The biggest thing, I can't stress this enough, is the partnership building it gives us. Because, when this funding all goes away, when the grant money dries up, we'll still have those relationships." Nanos says.

In 2013, the feds sent the Pima County Sheriff's Department about $1.3M from the Department of Homeland Security. While Tucson Police were the recipients of more than $875,000 in DHS funds. The money is slated for overtime, mileage, and equipment for "border issues and enhancement protection capabilities." First-responders in Santa Cruz and Cochise counties received nearly $2.7M for border security initiatives in 2013.

If you have something you would like the news 4 Tucson investigators to check out, email us, at investigators@kvoa.com, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at 955-4444.

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