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US Military Equipping Local Police With War-Zone Armored Vehicles

mrap policeYour local law enforcement agency could soon get a questionable new piece of equipment from the Pentagon — an 18-ton armored car.

The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles were designed to protect troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from insurgents’ homemade bombs, but now MRAPs are being given away to police departments in such communities as High Springs, Florida, population 5,350. The High Springs police paid the Defense Departments’ Law Enforcement Support Office $2,000 for an MRAP that originally cost taxpayers $600,000, a local TV station reported.

Even though the vehicles cannot be used in many places, around 165 MRAPs have been given away to police agencies all over the United States according to Fox News. The MRAPs were built for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, but since the Iraq War is over and the Afghan adventure is winding down, the US Army has been giving or selling the vehicles to local law enforcement agencies.

“It’s a cheap solution to a problem,” High Springs Police Chief Steve Holley said of the MRAP. Fox News reported that Holley’s “cheap solution” gets five miles to the gallon.

Holley claimed High Springs needs an MRAP to evacuate people in case of flooding. His argument is that the vehicle can drive through up to three feet of water.

Armored and Intimidating

“It’s armored. It’s heavy. It’s intimidating. And it’s free,” Sherriff Craig Apple of Albany County, New York, said of the five MRAPs his department has taken delivery of. It isn’t clear what Apple and his deputies will do with the MRAPs, because the vehicles are too big to drive on many roads and they have a tendency to tip over on rough ground.

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MRAPs have already been used to serve at least one warrant in Boise, Idaho. Fox News reported that two of the vehicles were used to protect officers who were searching for bomb-making materials.

The most questionable entity with an MRAP is probably the campus police force at Ohio State University (OSU). The OSU police say they need an MRAP to deal with the rowdy crowds on football game days.

Police armored cars not funny to law enforcement critics

Even though the idea of small town police driving around in military armored cars might be funny to some, it isn’t very amusing to critics of police militarization.

“Instead of bringing soldiers in to do domestic law enforcement, we have allowed, and even encouraged, police officers to basically be armed like, police like, use the tactics of, be dressed like and adopt the mind set of these soldiers,” said journalist Radley Balko, the author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. “And the outcome is just as troubling, I think, as if the military were actually doing domestic police themselves.”

Another critics of the idea is the American Civil Liberties Union.

“One of our concerns with this is that it has a tendency to escalate violence,” Kara Dansky of the ACLU’s Center for Justice said of the MRAP giveaway.

Pentagon giveaway to America’s police

The MRAPs are only the latest piece of military equipment being given to police by the Defense Department’s 1033 program. Police departments all over the country have been receiving free or low-cost armored vehicles, including tanks, for years.

The program has led to “rampant fraud and abuse,” Reuters columnists Michael Shank and Elizabeth Beavers discovered. In a special report the columnists called 1033 a flagrant waste of tax money. Some of their shocking discoveries included:

  • At least one officer sold military weapons he had been given through the program on eBay.
  • Some police departments actually lost military equipment and weapons, including AR-15 rifles, they had been supplied with.
  • Some officers gave the military style weapons away to their friends.
  • There was so much fraud and abuse that the Pentagon actually suspended distribution of weapons to police forces. The distribution of other pieces of equipment such as armored cars and helicopters continues.
  • Some police agencies may have sold or auctioned off weapons to raise money for other purposes.

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  1. Speaking from personal experience. Get over the use of these vehicles. Police departments are buying bear cats for $300,000 that are basically the same thing just a little smaller. If they can get these military surplus rigs for free, it seems like a much better use of tax payer money to use recycled rigs. Many of these rigs only have a few thousand miles on them and can add much needed support to local law enforcement for little or no cost. Much needed you say? Yes. LEOS are generally very strong supporters of the 2nd amendment. So, if they are going to be responding to calls for service where suspects have military (or similar) style weapons, do you really expect them to “take cover” behind a patrol car? A 7.62×39 round will go right through an engine block of a crown Victoria. It’s not like the cops are just rolling call to call in MRAPS. They sit in a secure lot until they are needed for high risk search warrants and armed bad guys. Give the cops a break. They have families and care about their communities just like you. They want to go home at the end of their shift and we should support them in this.

    • I’m with you on this. The cops in my little city in Wisconsin have one as well and it is used exclusively for high-risk service. Like you say, many of the creeps are outgunning the cops and it is desperately needed by the cops to stay alive. The MRAP here is not used daily for any intimidation and is stored until needed. Note: the MRAP is not exclusively for our city but is used throughout the area. It was used recently for a drug interdiction issue and took heavy fire, noted from the large blisters on the driver’s side window. Get over it guys not all cops are creeps. One of the Police Sergeants in our city is an IRAQ war combat veteran a huge supporter of the second amendment. I know him personally and would trust him as a patriot and with my life in a combat situation.

    • Not so fast. A sheriff’s department in Florida just got filmed using a Bearcat to do a traffic stop on a kid who shot them the bird. The deputies were in full combat gear, including modern digital camoflauge. How is that “tactical use” only?

  2. This isn’t really news. This has been going on for a few years already. Very many police departments have acquired these vehicles and have been using them.

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