Pulaski County, Indiana, is home to less than 14,000 people. In all of 2012, they saw only 11 larceny or theft incidents, one murder and a grand total of 17 property crimes.
Yet, their police force has a mine-resistant ambush protection vehicle at their disposal.
“It’s more intimidating than a Dodge,” Pulaski County Sheriff Michael Gayer told the Indianapolis Star.
Eight Indiana law enforcement agencies acquired MRAPs from military surplus since 2010, The Indianapolis Star reported. The vehicles are among a broad array of 4,400 items — everything from coats to computers to high-powered rifles — acquired by police and sheriff’s departments across the state.
“The United States of America has become a war zone,” Sheriff Gayer said when justifying the purchase. “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.”
Mark Wright, a Pentagon spokesman, told TheBlaze any federal or state law enforcement agency whose officers “have arrest and apprehension authority can request and potentially receive excess DoD personal property,” but a quick look at the type of equipment the police forces across the nation are arming themselves with indicates preparation for worst-case scenarios rather than typical criminal activity.
Since 2006, police in six states have received magazines that carry 100 rounds of M-16 ammunition, allowing officers to fire continuously for three times longer than normal. Twenty-two states obtained equipment to detect buried land mines. Law enforcement in 38 states have received silencers, which soldiers use to muffle gunfire during raids and sniper attacks; one rural county in North Dakota has 40 silencers to police the 11,000 people in the county.
According to an April 2013 audit, Utah police possessed $2.8 million of weapons and other military gear received through the program, including four grenade launchers, 17 .45-caliber pistols and a handful of magazines and weapon accessories.
[sharequote align=”center”]”The United States of America has become a war zone.” — Sheriff Gayer, Pulaski County, Indiana. [/sharequote]
Congress created the military-transfer program in the early 1990s, when violent crime plagued America’s cities and the police felt outgunned by drug gangs, according to the New York Times. Today, crime has fallen to its lowest levels in a generation, the wars have wound down and, despite the Department of Justice’s insistence that a revival of the Domestic Terror Task Force is necessary, the number of domestic terrorist attacks has declined sharply from the 1960s and 1970s.
The DoD 1033 program allows surplus military equipment to be handed over to state and local civilian law enforcement agencies for use in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations, or to enhance officer safety. And keeping their officers safe is the primary reason most law enforcement leadership offer for why they take on the advanced weaponry.
“For me it’s all about officer safety,” Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox told the Indianapolis Star.. “It’s getting the officers to these SWAT call-out safely, and getting them home safely.”
The second reason: the equipment is put to better use this way than letting it waste away.
“I think us having (the MRAP) in that barn is much better than the federal government leaving it rusting on a cement slab somewhere in Texas or Virginia or wherever these may be sitting,” Sheriff Cox said.
The Pulaski County Sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to TheBlaze with comments.
So what do you think? Is this more militarization of our police forces, or an efficient use of assets that already exist?