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Florida’s Smallest Police Department Gets a Mine-Resistant Armored Vehicle

| May 18, 2015

armored vehicles police

The Fort Pierce Police Department’s MRAP, one of 20 distributed to police agencies in Florida last year. (Fort Pierce Police Department)

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting on May 10 published an infographic and searchable database breaking down the types of surplus military equipment, as well as their monetary values, doled out to civilian law enforcement agencies in Florida.

The research revealed that the U.S. Department of Defense has provided 47 mine-resistant armored vehicles, also known as MRAPs, to dozens of police agencies throughout the state. MRAPs are designed specifically to withstand improvised explosive device attacks and ambushes by enemy forces in combat zones. (On Monday, the Obama administration announced that it would be scaling back the militarized hardware it makes available to local police agencies.)

From 2007 through 2012, the Pentagon put more than 12,000 MRAPs into service in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now many of those MRAPs are being unloaded to 780 domestic civilian law enforcement agencies, many of which are on waiting lists to receive the vehicles.

To receive an MRAP, a law enforcement agency has to meet certain criteria by providing justifications for use, such as shooting incidents, SWAT operations, and drug interdiction. Geographical area and multi-jurisdictional use are also factors, as is a department’s ability to pay for repairs and maintenance and guarantee security and restricted access to the vehicle, according to a 2014 National Defense magazine article.

The MRAP received prominent media attention last year when police in Ferguson, Mo., rolled out one of the vehicles in response to civil unrest and protests after a grand jury declined to press charges against former Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Mike Brown.

florida center for investigative reportingOf the 47 MRAPs delivered to Florida law enforcement agencies, 20 have been given to small and mid-sized municipal police departments. Here are some facts about where MRAPs are being used in Florida:

  • Florida International University is the only state college with an MRAP on campus. The FIU Police Department received one last year when the Pentagon distributed MRAPs to 60 universities across the country.
  • The Coral Gables and Fort Pierce police departments each have two MRAPs to deal with any possible insurgencies in their respective cities.
  • Police departments in 10 Florida cities and towns where blacks and Hispanics account for more than 40 percent of the population received MRAPs.
  • MRAPs have been deployed in 12 Florida cities and towns where the population is less than 50,000 people.
  • The Department of Defense sent MRAPs to 14 police departments in towns and cities where the annual crime rate dropped by two percent or more, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s 2013 annual crime report, the most recent available.
  • MRAPs were awarded to 16 police departments in municipalities where 15 percent to 35 percent of the population lives below the national poverty level.
  • Eighteen MRAPs valued at $733,000 each were delivered to 17 law enforcement agencies between February and May 2014.

Law enforcement officials have claimed MRAPs enhance SWAT team responses to hostile situations, as well as provide effective assistance during disaster relief efforts. But civil libertarians argue that MRAPs don’t belong outside of the military theater.

In an interview with Fusion Network last year, FIU Police Chief Alexander Casas defended his department’s use of the MRAP. “As a homeowner, you have to have a fire alarm in your home, but you hope to God that you never have to actually depend on it,” Casas said. “It’s the same thing with us and this equipment.”

However, local chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union around the nation have called on police departments to stop using MRAPs. In a report released last year, ACLU senior counsel Kara Dansky decried the use of MRAPs and other military equipment provided by the Pentagon to local police agencies.

“We found that police overwhelmingly use SWAT raids not for extreme emergencies like hostage situations but to carry out such basic police work as serving warrants or searching for a small amount of drugs,” Dansky said. “Carried out by 10 or more officers armed with assault rifles, flashbang grenades, and battering rams, these paramilitary raids disproportionately impacted people of color, sending the clear message that the families being raided are the enemy.”

–Francisco Alvarado, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

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6 Responses for “Florida’s Smallest Police Department Gets a Mine-Resistant Armored Vehicle”

  1. Jon Hardison says:

    The laws of escalation demand that we be given land mines now, right?
    Is that how that works? I’m pretty sure that’s how that works.

  2. Freddy says:

    It is time to demilitarize police departments from around the countries. Police used to get respect from citizens but dressing up like ninjas and military personnel makes them look like they are going to war with the population. What happened to the friendly neighborhood cop that everyone knew. They have turned into battle hardened soldiers.

    • Ray Thorne says:

      All well and good Freddy but let’s remember that our law enforcement is our first line of defense in this country when it comes to attacks on our soil whether by domestic or foreign entities. Times have changed drastically and unfortunately, the days you and I remember, which seems not too long ago, are gone. If the police can’t protect themselves, they can’t protect us.

  3. Sherry E says:

    The massive militarization of our local police departments is creating an “us against them” image and adding to a policing culture that is rapidly moving away from “protect and serve” to “protect me, and control you”.

    This is a complex issue which is greatly exacerbated by the shear volume of guns. . . including concealed and high caliber automatic weaponry. . . in the hands of irresponsible/mentally ill civilians. A law enforcement officer cannot “protect and serve” if that officer does not first protect themselves.

    Budget cut backs now often have a single officer responding to a call when in years past, most officers worked with a partner. Simple logic would tell any reasonable person that a combination of these factors put officers much more at risk for their well being and their lives.

    BUT. . . escalating the paranoid “arms race” in our country and having our local police become more and more militarized is not the answer! It’s not because it only leads to more and more violence, and actually less and less freedom for each of us to live securely and peacefully. Violence begets violence!

    Better development of peace and safety in our society could and should begin with conscious and courageous acts of kindness towards all others. . . by the police and all civilians. A positive step in a peaceful direction is that President Obama is currently curbing the introduction of these kinds of military “combat” apparatus into our civilian police forces.

    Further steps could and should be better gun safety laws, including background checks, gun registration, curbing of access to assault type weapons, training requirements, etc. The second amendment does NOT guarantee guns in the hands of ALL US citizens with no restrictions or regulations what so ever. Responsible gun owners most often support reasonable gun safety laws, simply because they are responsible and recognize the need to do everything possible to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of irresponsible citizens.

  4. Nalla C says:

    This department may be the last one getting an MRAP filled. As the parenthetical in the article posted above states, just yesterday, the President has ordered DOJ to scale this practice back, if not eliminate it altogether. That’s a good thing, IMO. It was ridiculous that any American police department was being “militarized”.

  5. Col. Maj. Cap. Fred says:

    One Adam 12. One Adam 12….we got 12 year old terrorist from the local elementary school who escaped the cafeteria with a fork. Call SWAT, TWAT, and bring the M1 Abrams Tank with Armor piercing 120mm rounds……Roger 10-4 , can I bring the new government donated ICBM launcher just incase the terrorist tries to use the fork for those mash potatoes ?

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