Now that the Iraq war has ended and the Afghanistan war is winding down, the Pentagon has lots of surplus equipment and they’re ready to unload it on local police departments. Because every sheriff’s department should have IED-resistant armored personnel carriers with machine guns mounted on them.
Coming soon to your local sheriff: 18-ton, armor-protected military fighting vehicles with gun turrets and bulletproof glass that were once the U.S. answer to roadside bombs during the Iraq war.
The hulking vehicles, built for about $500,000 each at the height of the war, are among the biggest pieces of equipment that the Defense Department is giving to law enforcement agencies under a national military surplus program.
For police and sheriff’s departments, which have scooped up 165 of the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPS, since they became available this summer, the price and the ability to deliver shock and awe while serving warrants or dealing with hostage standoffs was just too good to pass up.
“It’s armored. It’s heavy. It’s intimidating. And it’s free,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, among five county sheriff’s departments and three other police agencies in New York that have taken delivery of an MRAP.
Notice the sheriff doesn’t even mention whether it’s useful or necessary. He doesn’t seem to care at all. It’s a shiny new toy and it looks really tough, so let’s get one! Even if they almost always go to departments with the least amount of serious crime:
An Associated Press investigation of the Defense Department military surplus program this year found that a disproportionate share of the $4.2 billion worth of property distributed since 1990 – everything from blankets to bayonets and Humvees – has been obtained by police and sheriff’s departments in rural areas with few officers and little crime.
After the initial 165 of the MRAP trucks were distributed this year, military officials say police have requests in for 731 more, but none are available.
Ohio State University campus police got one, saying they would use it in large-scale emergencies and to provide a police presence on football game days. Others went to police in High Springs, Fla., and the sheriff’s office in Dallas County, Texas.
This will be just like SWAT teams and all the other military-style units — once you’ve got it, you have to use it to justify having it, so you start using it to serve routine drug warrants and such. This is incredibly dangerous and corrosive.