In this post from yesterday, I flagged what appears to be the eerily and disturbingly militarized nature of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, a small agency just outside St. Louis. We have a few issues here potentially: the militarization of police work, counter-terror pork and finally the way that the military is passing off its surplus to small town police departments – with results that manage to be both Guffmanesque and terrifying. When I saw that picture out of Ferguson I immediately thought of this bizarre story out of Johnson County, Indiana.
Johnson County has 140,000 residents, part of the Greater Indianapolis Metropolitan Area.
The folks at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department say they would prefer to purchase a “BearCat” armored vehicle for their SWAT team. But that would have cost about $300,000, money the department says it doesn’t have. So for a mere $5,000 they were able to get a military surplus MRAP from the US military. Now, the one in the video below is the one folks in Johnson County got. The one in the feature image above is another acquired by a department in New York. The Johnson County one is a 55,000 pound, heavily armored vehicle, designed to withstand landmines and insurgent ambushes. They come in many cases literally off the streets of Fallujah, with a quick refurb, to your hometown.
To give some perspective, a Humvee (not the smaller civilian Hummer) weighs 5,000 to 6,000 pounds. So this vehicle is like ten Humvees. But, as Pulaski County (Indiana) Sheriff Michael Gayer puts it, “It’s a lot more intimidating than a Dodge.” Pulaski has a population of just over 13,000 people. So I would think it’s probably quite intimidating. When I say, you’ll know what I mean ‘Guffmanesque’ when you watch the video below. But there’s no policing situation where a vehicle like this is even remotely appropriate or frankly even useful. In most cases, they’ll just sit in the vastly oversized garage’s these local PDs and Sheriff’s departments have created for them. But everyone likes their toys and has their Terminator type fantasies. So who knows.
Watch this video of Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox explaining why his county needs one of these babies …