As police in Redlands, Calif., searched from house to house for suspects in this week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Americans at home watched something unusual: the tactical use of armored vehicles on a suburban street, reports CBS. Even in a country that regularly experiences mass shootings, the need for either military or non-military armored personnel carriers — known as MRAPs and Bearcats — is rare, experts say. The vehicles became infamous in 2014 after they were used to quell protests in Ferguson, Mo., sparking an outcry and leading President Obama to limit police access to certain military surplus equipment.
In California, they were used as most departments originally planned, to shield the police from people who had already killed and injured dozens, said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation. But Bueermann said one massive military vehicle used Wednesday was out of place. It’s called the MRAP, it’s built to work in a war zone, and it has been provided free-of-charge to some local police departments as part of a program that rids the military of surplus equipment. “It’s not most chiefs’ first choice, but they’re free,” said Bueermann. “They’re not really perfect for police work. Departments get them because they can’t afford the hundreds of thousands for a Bearcat.”