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Military hand-me-downs: US police getting leftover armored trucks from Iraq

Published time: November 25, 2013 12:06
Edited time: November 27, 2013 08:22
A Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Classification One vehicle demonstrates its off-road abilities in a water puddle at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland (Reuters/Larry Downing)

A Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Classification One vehicle demonstrates its off-road abilities in a water puddle at the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, Maryland (Reuters/Larry Downing)

The US military is handing over leftover equipment from the Iraq conflict to police under a military surplus program. Civil liberties groups have criticized the initiative as unnecessary and a move toward the militarization of American law enforcement.

American law enforcement agencies have received 165 MRAPs – 18 ton, armored vehicles with gun turrets – this year, according to an AP investigation. Military officials say police have filed requests for 731 more, but none are available.

“It’s armored. It’s heavy. It’s intimidating. And it’s free,” Craig Apple, the sheriff of Albany County, told AP.

Each of the hulking military vehicles costs around $500,000, and before the MRAPs can be used by law enforcement agencies they have to be refitted for civilian use. Even after retro-fitting, the vehicles are still limited. Because of their size, the vehicles are unable to cross some bridges and travel on narrow roads.

The investigation revealed that some of the MRAPs have already been put to use. In the city of Boise, Idaho, police deployed the vehicle because they suspected a suspect was in possession of heavy firearms and explosives. In Nampa, police used their MRAP to protect officers from a potential explosion.

The distribution of the armored military vehicles to police forces has prompted strong opposition from US rights groups. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has attacked the military surplus program, branding it a move to militarize law enforcement.

A new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle called the M-ATV is on display outside the Pentagon (AFP Photo/Tim Sloan)

“One of our concerns with this is it has a tendency to escalate violence,” ACLU Center for Justice senior counsel Kara Dansky told AP. The ACLU has been investigating the use of military equipment in US police forces since 2012 as part of their campaign against the militarization of law enforcement under the slogan: “Towns don’t need tanks.”

On its website, the NGO records examples of occasions when police have used military equipment in situations when it was unnecessary, disproportionate or counterproductive.

In one such incident earlier this year, police in North Dakota used a $154 million MQ-9 Predator B drone to arrest a family of anti-government separatists who had refused to return six cows who had wandered onto their property to their owners. Local police borrowed the drone from the Department of Homeland Security, the ACLU reported.

Apple, the Albany County sheriff, argued that the police force was not becoming more militarized and was instead preparing itself for every eventuality.

“Our problem is we have to make sure we are prepared to respond to every type of crisis,” he said. For example, he said, if SWAT teams need to get close to a shooter or protect passers-by, a MRAP would be the vehicle for the job.

The ACLU argues that MRAPs might just be the tip of the iceberg, as it is not known “how militarized the police have become, and how extensively federal money is incentivizing this trend.”

Comments (11)

 

Domenic Patrone 27.11.2013 20:09

The military get quality parts but we get tires from China that are built to wear out in record time!

 

Mike Martin 27.11.2013 18:40

_(It’s armored. It’s heavy. It’s intimidating. And it’s free...) SCUSE ME ?! NOT free, the American tax payers paid for these ! They'll need way more than these to quel any future American revolution.Theyve built vast underground cities and so on and so forth in order to ride out any type of revolution.That being said a cave is a grave.History teaches us it never works.They can run but they cannot hide.They can roam around in these monsters all they want but they always have a weakness that can be exploited.They have to come out sometime and when they do......

 

D F 27.11.2013 18:13

Oh I get it- you must be preparing for the REVOLUTION - being prepared for the public - the public not recognize their ideas and their minds are being steered to increase anger. CIA operations Like this SNOWDEN staged show-
Who didn't know we have no real privacy long before Mr.Snowden. Who doesn't realize information is being removed(censorship) from the WWW?Who doesn't know Gmail yahoo Facebook etc is now fully monitored.
If the public could only discoverer a higher technology- far more advanced than this Snowden info.
Nano tech people discoverer that for yourself.
Its in the interest of your own security & PRIVACY

View all comments (11)
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