August 12, 2015

Wanted: Heavy Armored Vehicles

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The Guthrie Police Department paid $2,500 in drug forfeiture money for this armored military vehicle, or MRAP, in early 2014 through a Department of Defense program.

The Guthrie Police Department paid $2,500 in drug forfeiture money for this armored military vehicle, or MRAP, in early 2014 through a Department of Defense program.

Oklahoma law enforcement agencies continue to crave armored vehicles.

The latest is the Norman Police Department, which recently announced its intention to purchase a civilian armored vehicle, a Lenco Bearcat, with $290,000 in drug forfeiture funds.

If the city council approves after an Aug. 25 discussion, Norman will join 26 other local law enforcement entities in trying to acquire armored vehicles. Many sought by those agencies have been  “MRAPS” for “Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected,” according to application records posted by the publication Mother Jones. The vehicles were left over from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some residents question why authorities need such vehicles, saying they’re a waste of money and are another step in the militarization of local police. Law enforcement officials say the armored trucks provide added protection to officers who face barricade and other dangerous situations.

Then there’s Guthrie. In its 2013 application to the Pentagon for an armored military vehicle, the Guthrie Police Department said officers might face “increased activity in sovereign citizen/extremist groups” and other dangers that necessitated getting the vehicle.

The Mother Jones posting included 400 applications for MRAPs from around the country, and among other Oklahoma applicants were Bixby, Moore, Norman, McAlester, Tulsa, Sand Springs, Okmulgee, Shawnee and Enid. Others were Cleveland, Canadian, Payne and other counties, plus a few tribal agencies and the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

The Norman Police Department application to the Pentagon, made in October 2013, states, “This vehicle will be used mostly for high risk tactical situations that may include drug interdiction.” The listed applicant was Norman Police Chief Keith L. Humphrey.

Norman did not get the MRAP. Norman Police Capt. Todd Gibson said the department decided not to acquire the vehicle because it was “too military” and maintenance would cost too much.

Norman’s recent proposal to buy an armored vehicle has met with some resistance, partly because of the use of search-and-seizure money from criminal suspects.

At a recent Democratic Party gathering, Humphrey is quoted as saying, “I can tell you with a straight face and looking each and every one of you in your eyes, the Norman Police Department has never ever seized money from anyone that was innocent.”