52°F
Sponsored by

Local Law Enforcement Agencies Add Military Vehicles to Fleet

Officers say the retired military equipment provides improved protection at a fraction of the cost, but others believe the machines, built for the battlefield, don't belong in Benton County.
Benton County -- The Bentonville Police Department, and the Benton County Sheriff's Office recently acquired mine resistant ambush protected vehicles.

Law Enforcement officers say the retired military equipment provides improved protection at a fraction of the cost, but others believe the machines, built for the battlefield, don't belong in Benton County.

"It is a military vehicle," says Lt. Thomas See, of the Benton County Sheriff's Office. "It was built for a certain purpose."

The sheriff's office plans to repurpose the MRAP to replace its current swat truck.

"We've had some maintenance issues on it, coupled with it is only rated for small arms fire such as a hand gun," See says. This vehicle is rated up for higher caliber weaponry."

See says a new replacement truck would cost about $350,000, but through a military surplus program, the MRAP only cost the department $5,000.

"It is a lifesaving tool," See says. "It is a piece of equipment that we can utilize."

The violence in Ferguson, and images of armored trucks rolling through the city alongside police in riot gear has stirred up a national debate over the militarization of police. Lisa Corrigan, an Associate Professor of Communication and Director of the Gender Studies Program at the University of Arkansas says it's not a new issue.

"It actually started in the 1960s," Corrigan says. "The Johnson administration started massively funding mostly urban police departments against civil rights demonstrators, and then campus communities against free speech and student activists." "

Corrigan says there is no evidence the gear creates a safer community.

"The data's clear, we've been studying it since the 1960s," she says. "It shows that it increases fear and distrust of the police."

See says the truck will only be used in situations with a potential for violence.

"It's not going to take the place of a patrol vehicle," he says. "We're not going to start playing military... We're going to utilize it for for our SWAT team, for high risk situations, for extracting personnel, or would be injured civilians from a high risk situation."

Deputies have been fired at several times this year.

"One was in February of this year out there in the Rocky Branch area and then we had another one about a month later in the same general area," See says. "It's happening a little more often now... A lot of drug dealers have higher powered weaponry than we do."

Corrigan says she understands the safety issue, but says an arms race isn't the answer.

"When you allow a community to have access to lethal force, because you refuse to institute smart gun laws, background checks, increased mental health funding, then yes, I'm sure the police feel like they have to have the same kind of gear, but that's an arms race," she says. "That's not improving safety or security."

The sheriff's office is still outfitting the MRAP to suit its purposes, and plans to put it in service by the end of the year.
Page: [[$index + 1]]
comments powered by Disqus

More Local News