Military taking back vehicles from police to use as ‘bullet sponges’

The Fort Pierce Police Department’s MRAP, one of 20 distributed to police agencies in Florida last year. (Fort Pierce Police Department)

The military is beginning to take back armored vehicles from law enforcement agencies around the country, to use them for “realistic target practice.”

As Obama’s executive order takes effect, police depts. nationwide have started the process this week of returning military-style vehicles, which are often seen on the battlefield.  The equipment is being picked up and hauled away, supposedly to a Department of Defense military training range.  DOD says that the vehicles, which cost about $350,000, will serve as a more realistic target for aviators and ground forces.

Beginning today, the Oakland County Sheriff’s office began returning prohibited items listed in the executive order. In the coming days, Wayne and Macomb counties will also be forced to give back equipment that was received under the federal surplus program — known as 1033. The program was designed to “beef up” law enforcement agencies with equipment no longer needed for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sheriffs around the country are “fuming” over the order by Obama, saying it’s putting their officers at risk.

WXYZ reports, “this is not sitting well” with Sheriff Michael Bouchard.  According to Bouchard, this is key equipment during active shooter situations, like the one we just witnessed yesterday in California.

Bouchard adds: “They are the best defense in these high-profile, dangerous situations.” When the community is faced with such a crisis, he says, there’s no question these vehicles save lives.

After the shooting in Ferguson, law enforcement agencies started using these military-style vehicles more often during protests and riots. Obama said their presence “alienates and intimidates” people.  The ACLU has urged the federal government to “rein in incentives” for police to militarize. The organization is also recommending that the government track the use of military equipment in police hands.

According to the Detroit Free Press, authorities in the state of Michigan have received more than $40 million worth of surplus military equipment, since 2006.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said his office has had a tracked armored vehicle for its SWAT team since 2004. “Look what’s happening around the country — mass shootings, barricaded gunman. An armored vehicle gives law enforcement the upper hand,” he said.

Wickersham says he plans to ask county commissioners if he can roll over about $350,000 in savings from this fiscal year to next fiscal year, to buy a wheeled vehicle as a replacement.

Republican Candice Miller, who represents Michigan’s 10th congressional district, called Obama’s give-back plan “beyond ridiculous.” Miller said: “It hinders our first responders’ ability to do their jobs as effectively as we need them to.”

Just yesterday in the shooting massacre in San Bernardino, agencies used military armored vehicles. Bouchard said after the incident, he was contacted by homeland security officials to talk about the future of these vehicles in metro-Detroit.

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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