(NaturalNews) The militarization of police departments around the nation continues, as evidenced by the purchase of a massive, military-grade armored vehicle by an agency in Florida.
According to the local NBC affiliate, police in Fort Pierce "are now armed with a U.S. military surplus battle wagon: a six wheel, 30-ton armored vehicle worth $700,000 - that the agency got for $2,000."
"If you see my SWAT team roll up in this, it's over, so just give up," Police Chief Sam Baldwin said sardonically.
He did go on to say that he really hopes to make sure that the mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle is never used. But, if it must be, he says it will be utilized to transport the SWAT team to the scene and for a mobile command and rescue vehicle.
The local NBC affiliate further reported that:
Officer Keith Holmes got the vehicle in October through the auspices of the National Defense Authorization Act. That allows the military to transfer excess military vehicles to law enforcement agencies. The city got a little-used model with 5,000 miles on it.
Just how often are police under fire?
The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office joined in as well by helping to get the vehicle painted for free, so it will likely be able to use the vehicle as well.
The new MRAP is Fort Pierce's second SWAT vehicle. In 2009, the city got a free van equipped with a ramp on the roof for getting into second- and third-story buildings.
It's not clear why the department thinks it needs a vehicle like this; one report said that 150 shootings a year occur in the city.
But the report said nothing about how often police came under fire, or how often police even arrived quickly enough to engage active shooters.
In fact, as in a plethora of instances - some noted below - there is little actual justification for obtaining these vehicles of war (and for the record, that is precisely what they are; I spent a great deal of time in them in Afghanistan a couple of years back). There is little to nothing in news reports of local police and city officials saying that MRAPs are a vital piece of police equipment that will be used regularly to protect officers from a recurring danger.
'Just like a fire truck'
This is the trend all over the country, in a rising number of local police departments: As the nation returns from a decade of war, it is transferring its war vehicles (which were bought with U.S. tax dollars) to civilian police agencies whose function is not war-fighting but "keeping the peace:"
-- The South Tahoe Police Department also recently received a nearly 700,000-dollar MRAP for free. Again, the department says the vehicle will be assigned to its SWAT team.
--The Banning (California) Police Department acquired an MRAP - apparently without city council approval or notification - then promptly crashed the vehicle on a highway in Arizona, resulting in some $42,000 worth of claims against the city. Oops. Again, for the SWAT team.
-- The Redlands (California) Police Department received an MRAP that had been redeployed from Iraq. As in the other department acquisitions of such vehicles, the Redlands P.D. was given the vehicle by the Defense Department.
"Police Chief Mark Garcia and city spokesman Carl Baker say the MRAP has no mounted gun turret and will be used in only the most dire situations, such as when police are confronted by an active shooter," the local paper reported, adding that such events, so far, have eluded the city: "Garcia said if a horrific incident does occur, valuable time could be saved if the department has its own armored vehicle instead of waiting for the Sheriff's Department to arrive on the scene with theirs."
-- The Bastrop County Sheriff's Department, which includes the city of Austin, Texas, has also received an MRAP. Here's how department spokesman Lt. Joey Dzienowki justified the acquisition:
"I look at this as the fire department looks at a new fire truck. Nobody gets a new vehicle like this looking to go out and use it. It's here if we need it, but we hope it's never needed."
MRAP = fire truck. Sure. So, in Bastrop County there are as many active shooter scenarios as there are fires. Nice try, lieutenant.