Is There an MRAP in Your Future?

images 5Is an MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle) on the way to your community?

Many local police departments have already received these vehicles at no cost from the U.S. government as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down. The Pentagon recently stated that they have 200 requests from law enforcement agencies and another 800 pending. There are approximately 13,000 of these vehicles available for police departments.

While folk wisdom tells us not to look a gift horse in the mouth, perhaps we should.

Here’s the concern of one thinking police chief about the use of these vehicles:

“I’m concerned about the militarization issue–not only because of what citizens see when they see police in military vehicles but also because of how officers may feel when they are ‘mounted on’ them. I think it is an issue that needs to be addressed from many angles.

“I believe we need to think about very limited and restricted use of these vehicles, rather than looking for any possible excuse for using them. It’s my same concern about SWAT teams; when you have one (or two or three), you need lots of reasons to use them. And many of the uses run terribly counter to community partnership.”

images 4He’s right and these are good points. What usually is done is to engage the community in a discussion BEFORE receiving the vehicle or certainly before it is put into service. That discussion needs to be about HOW the MRAP will be used.

Simple terminology can make a big difference — is it the MRAP a tank or a protective/guardian vehicle? It is important to define what this tool is, its advantages and disadvantages and how it will be used. For example, will it be used as a tool to rescue police or citizens who may be in the line of direct fire in this highly armed society in which we live? Or is it to be used for other things such as…?

Regardless, a comprehensive policy needs to be drawn up and shared with the community as to how and when the vehicle will be used — hopefully this should be done before the vehicle ever hits the street.

Other considerations: Appearances are important. Should the vehicle be painted in some other color than black or desert tan? Will it be used in parades and community events? Should it?
How citizens see police officers and their dress, also applies to their tools. Images and impressions matter. A pictures is worth a thousand words.
Good luck and go forward.
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  • Know what to do and when to do it.