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OPINION: Maine Peace Officer or Warrior Cop?

Seven Maine Law Enforcement Agencies will be receiving Navstar Defense MaxxPro Mine Resistant Armor Protected vehicles (MRAP) which are being offered for free through the Pentagon’s Law Enforcement Support Office.

The 1033 Program, which was authorized by the 1990 National Defense Authorization Act, permits the Secretary of Defense to ‘transfer, without charge, excess U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) personal property (supplies and equipment) to state and local law enforcement agencies.’

Since its inception, this program has provided more than $2.6 billion worth of DoD property to law enforcement agencies across the United States.

The surplus MRAPs were born from a 2007 request by the DoD for vehicles specifically designed to protect U.S. soldiers from deadly improvised explosive devices. The DoD has spent more than $45 billion on the program already. According to a 2010 USA Today article, the number of MRAPs in Afghanistan went from 1,800 to 12,000 in a period stretching from 2008 to 2010. With combat operations dwindling down, these MRAPs are now being handed out to willing law enforcement agencies for little to no cost.

A requested fact sheet from the company states that the MaxxPro MRAP is a 4×4 with four single rear wheels on run-flat tires. It can carry a two-man crew plus four to six passengers and a ‘gunner’. It weighs 38,500 pounds, is 21 feet long, 8½ feet wide, 10 feet tall, and has a 62-foot turning radius. It has an 8.7-liter turbocharged diesel engine with a five-speed automatic transmission that gets about 1 mile per gallon of fuel. Without a gun turret it is worth about $700,000.

It is uncertain how many offers of this nature were made to other Maine Law Enforcement Agencies, but Oxford, Cumberland, and Franklin County sheriff’s offices as well as Brunswick, Sanford, Old Orchard Beach, and South Portland police departments have decided to take possession.

Concerned residents of Penobscot County and the city of Bangor, asked both the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Department and the Bangor Police Department if they had applied or been offered one of these federally funded MRAP’s.

Both immediately replied to information requests on Thursday.

Bangor Police Chief Mark Hathaway replied, “We did receive the offer on this (or a similar) vehicle but elected to decline. This particular vehicle is much larger than we would reasonably need and it really does not fit our operational plan. I however do think this military assistance program does have value”.

Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross said that the department “did not apply for nor will apply for one of these vehicles. When we have a tactical situation that rises to the level of needing one on these vehicles we would request the assistance of the State Police Tactical Team as we have many times in the past.”

As reported in the Bangor Daily News, Oxford County Sheriff’s Cpl. George Cayer, in a Sept. 6 memo to Sheriff Wayne Gallant, said the vehicle could save lives, especially in the case of a mass shooting or terrorist attack.

“The Western Foothills of the State of Maine, primarily the Oxford County area as well as the area surrounding Oxford County, currently face a previously unimaginable threat from terrorist activities,” “It is therefore crucial that our personnel be equipped properly to deal safely with these events when they occur,” Cayer wrote.

Still many Maine residents have expressed on various social media platforms their displeasure. One Bangor resident asked some pertinent questions:

1.) Is the need justified? and if so;

2.) What are the hidden costs to the taxpayers (cost of operation, maintenance, training of personnel and storage for this vehicle).

The fact remains that these are machines of war and not peace enforcement vehicles. MRAP’s are built to withstand ballistic arms fire, mine blasts, IEDs, and other emerging threats confronted in bonafide combat theaters.

The infusion of military tactics and technology into domestic law enforcement agencies has already caused public relation problems for both the Federal Government and the police departments willing to take such gifts. Some blame the rise of the warrior cop mentality has contributed to a significant portion of officers across the United States, overstepping their boundaries and abusing their vested powers.

Law enforcement isn’t about kicking down doors. It’s about building and maintaining relationships. Protecting and serving a community, not a war-zone.

Arthur Rizer, former civilian police officer and member of the military said it best “If we’re training cops as soldiers, giving them equipment like soldiers, dressing them up as soldiers, when are they going to pick up the mentality of soldiers? If you look at the police department, their creed is to protect and to serve. A soldier’s mission is to engage his enemy in close combat and kill him. Do we want police officers to have that mentality? Of course not.”

Bryan W. Daugherty, Bangor

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