The Militarization of Law Enforcement Continues

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.

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  • This is incredibly dangerous and corrosive.”

    Sure, but it’s free.

  • justsomeguy

    The thing won’t even be free, once they account for gas, maintenance, insurance, storage, and personnel training. It’ll be a huge white elephant for them. Or maybe a desert camo elephant.

  • busterggi

    Both military and law enforcement share a common love of big guns and having unquestionable authority.

    Oh, and worries about their penis sise.

  • John Hinkle


    The thing won’t even be free, once they account for … personnel training.

    Training? No money in the budget for that. They get the armored vehicle and a pdf file owner’s manual. And we know what real men do with owner’s manuals.

    “What does this button do? Yeehaw!”

  • D. C. Sessions

    I’m just waiting for the news that Joe Arpaio has acquired a half-dozen surplussed M1Abrams tanks. There’s nothing like a no-knock warrant served by putting a DE sabot round through someone’s door.

  • zenlike

    “It’s armored. It’s heavy. It’s intimidating. And it’s free,”

    It only costs us our freedom, but that’s a price an authoritarian cop is more than willing to pay.

    Ohio State University campus police got one

    Giving almost-tanks to glorified mall-cops? What can go wrong?

  • Artor

    In my own liberal, hippy-town of Eugene, Oregon, the police have used grenades, a full SWAT team, and an APC to smash in the door of a house they suspected of selling drugs, put guns to the heads of a terrified family, (who had no drugs at all, natch) and stole anything they thought might be “evidence.” This was in the middle of a densely-populated residential neighborhood when people were going to work. To this day, they still have not admitted any wrongdoing, and despite all charges being propped, they haven’t returned any of the “evidence” either. (Computers, books, family photos, etc. None of which indicates any trace of a grow operation)

  • At least those departments got stuff for free. Last year the Saskatoon Police Service spent 300 grand on an “armoured rescue vehicle.” for the Emergency Response Team.

  • timgueguen “At least those departments got stuff for free. Last year the Saskatoon Police Service spent 300 grand on an ‘armoured rescue vehicle.’ for the Emergency Response Team.”

    To be fair, Saskatoon has one of the highest crime rates in Canada. I can’t count the numbers of times I heard the Mounties shout “Come oot with your hands up, please!” followed by a perp shout “Later! I’m still in line to get in to the Western Development Museum, eh!”

  • Ohio State University campus police

    The “Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming…” guys? Sure, they know how to deal with student insurrections…

  • cottonnero

    #10: To be fair, that was up the road at Kent State.

  • Well, at least they’re better rotting away in some remote corner of this country than being used to kill people overseas.

  • smrnda

    This demonstrates what a clear lie ‘serve and protect’ are when it comes to the police. They’re thugs with their own agenda who could give a shit about how the people under their jurisdiction care about their possession and use of military style hardware.

    We need to seriously change the whole nature of the police force and how accountability with the public works.

  • cry4turtles

    So much for actually trying to talk to people. Blow up with heavily armored tank, figure out issues later. Smash a fly on a glass table with a sledgehammer.

  • Ichthyic

    So much for actually trying to talk to people. Blow up with heavily armored tank, figure out issues later. Smash a fly on a glass table with a sledgehammer.

    there is a distinct difference I noticed immediately on arrival in New Zealand between the police here and the police back in the states.

    in the states, the primary behavioral approach the police use, right down to the mirrored sunglasses, is intimidation. a big stick to keep the crowds quiet.

    here, it’s exactly the opposite. the training encourages police to engage subjects to gain their cooperation.

    you can walk up to any beat cop here, even in the biggest downtown areas, and have no fear of striking up a nice chat with them.

    there are exceptions, of course, just like there are exceptions to intimidation cops in the states. but the RULE here is so different its remarkable.