Jeremy Bender — Business Insider June 9, 2014
Eight different law enforcement agencies in Indiana have purchased massive Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPS) that were formerly used in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mark Alesia reports for the Indy Star.
Pulaski County, home to 13,124 people, is one of the counties that have purchased an 55,000 pound, six-wheeled patrol vehicles, from military surplus. When asked to justify the purchase of a former military vehicle, Pulaski County Sheriff Michael Gayer told the Indy Star:
“The United States of America has become a war zone. There’s violence in the workplace, there’s violence in schools and there’s violence in the streets. You are seeing police departments going to a semi-military format because of the threats we have to counteract. If driving a military vehicle is going to protect officers, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
Crime rates have actually been sharply falling across the U.S. since the mid-1990s.
Law enforcement agencies have increasingly turned to purchasing military surplus in an attempt to protect officers and take advantage of massive bargains. One of the Indiana counties spent only $5,000 for its MRAP, while the government originally purchased the vehicle for $733,000.
The militarization of police is a sweeping trend throughout the country as police departments increasingly try to snatch up what military hardware is available for general purchase. The purchase of used military equipment is substantially cheaper for a police department than the purchase of new equipment designed for police.
The MRAPs are just one example of military hardware that is now winding up in police departments. Departments across the country are receiving M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers, night vision equipment, and camouflage.
There is fear that this militarization of the police force could have unintended consequences. Heavily armed police SWAT teams are now deploying tens of thousands of times every year for an increasing number of routine jobs.
A number of departments maintain that military surplus goods would only be used in extreme circumstances and for response to violent scenarios that could put officers’ lives at risk.