Coming soon to your local sheriff: 18-ton, armor-protected military fighting vehicles with gun turrets and bulletproof glass that formerly were the U.S. answer to roadside bombs during the Iraq war, the Associated Press reports. The hulking vehicles, built for $500,000 each, are among the biggest pieces of equipment that the Defense Department is giving to law enforcement agencies under a national military surplus program.
For police and sheriff's departments, which have taken 165 of the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPS, since they became available this summer, the price and the ability to deliver shock and awe while serving warrants or dealing with hostage standoffs was too good to pass up. “It's armored. It's heavy. It's intimidating. And it's free,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, among five sheriff's departments and three other police agencies in New York that have taken MRAPs. The American Civil Liberties Union is criticizing what it sees as the increasing militarization of the nation's police. ACLU affiliates have been collecting 2012 records to determine the extent of military hardware and tactics acquired by police. “One of our concerns with this is it has a tendency to escalate violence,” said the ACLU’s Kara Dansky.