By any estimation, the military's Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle is one bad-ass piece of equipment. It weighs 15 tons and has run-flat tires that weigh nearly 700 lbs. each. MRAPs are mine resistant and the windows are made of glass that can stop 50 caliber rounds without shattering. Designed to help protect military troops from mines and improvised explosive devices in Iraq , they are top-of-the-line military vehicles. And whether you know it or not, if you live in Minnesota it's likely that a nearby law enforcement agency now owns one.
Beginning in the spring of 2013, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began making the vehicles available to local law enforcement agencies at little or no cost. Under a plan that provided federal block grants to pay for local homeland security needs, the federal government subsidized nearly all the cost of the vehicles.
The DHS obtained 165 of the MRAPs from the U.S. Army Forces Command after they were no longer needed in Iraq. They were retrofitted and then delivered to local law enforcement agencies.
At least 18 MRAP's are being delivered to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, who began distributing them to local law enforcement agencies last fall through the Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department.
Wright County received a $658,000 2008 International Navistar MaxxPro MRAP for free in October, 2013 and Wright County Lt. Todd Hoffman told a local web site that the department received the vehicle because of "our nuclear facility in Wright County."
As far as why we need an MRAP, I hope and pray that we will never "need" the MRAP. In our line of work you have to plan for the worst and pray for the best. Unfortunately all you have to do now days is to turn on the news to see why the need is there.
This piece of equipment will be used by the Emergency Response Team as part of our response plan to incidents at the Monticello nuclear facility as well as any other major incident here in Wright County. Not all incidents involve armed conflict. You may have seen in the news lately where they have been used in natural disasters such as floods to assist in rescuing stranded citizens.
The St. Cloud Police Department also received an MRAP in October. According to WJON, their $400,000 vehicle had only been used for training in Fort Riley, Kansas. The department spent about $10,000 for retrofitting and new paint.
The Sheriff’s Departments in Sherburne County, Dakota County, Pine County, St. Louis County, and Olmstead County also received MRAPs last fall. Several other local law enforcement agencies received MRAPs in 2014, including the Superior Police Department, which received its $733,000 vehicle in May at a cost of $4,500 - the price of shipping it from Texas.
The distribution of military-grade equipment in some rural areas of Minnesota matches a trend that the Associated Press found last year when it examined the Defense Department military surplus program. It "found that a disproportionate share of the $4.2 billion worth of property distributed since 1990 — everything from blankets to bayonets and Humvees — has been obtained by police and sheriff's departments in rural areas with few officers and little crime."
As to whether these Minnesota law enforcement agencies really need this level of military-grade armored vehicle - even for a SWAT team - the answer may be as simple as the fact that few agencies are going to turn down free equipment.
"It may seem like overkill, it may also seem like a cost savings. I suppose it all depends on what your needs are," Capt. Stenemann of the University of Minnesota Police Department told Watchdog.org in June. "I can see where someone would look at a program like this, and the hot topic these days is the militarization of police departments, and this is it. But really, it’s kind of like sifting through a Dumpster in many ways."