Albuquerque Police Department is considering scrapping use of its MRAP armored vehicle after a deluge of negative press attention and complaints that the vehicle is a sign of America’s slide into a militarized police state.
The APD is already under intense scrutiny as a result of its officers being involved in the deaths of 27 people since 2010, including the shooting of 38-year-old James Boyd earlier this year, who was executed by Albuquerque Police Department officers for the crime of camping illegally on a remote hill.
The APD acquired the MRAP vehicle via the Defense Department’s 1033 program, which allows law enforcement agencies to obtain vehicles previously used to hunt insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan for the cost of transporting them alone.
However, in light of a major ACLU report which warns that such vehicles are part of a transformation into militarized policing where Americans are treated “like wartime enemies,” the APD is debating whether to mothball the MRAP.
“There are a number of different ways we might to use it, or we could give it back,” Albuquerque Police Department Communications and Community Outreach Director Janet Blair told New Mexico Watchdog, adding that the decision is expected to be finalized within days. The vehicle could also be shared with the Albuquerque Fire Department or the state’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Peter Simonson, executive director of the New Mexico chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, urged the APD to return the armored vehicle.
“I think that, at least as a symbolic gesture, it would signal a skepticism about the department’s use of military-grade weaponry and whether it’s actually necessary,” he said.
“Returning it might be the beginning of an acknowledgement that maybe they’ve gone down the road and they’re trying to find their way back,” added Tim Lynch of the Cato Institute.
Back in May, Albuquerque residents repeatedly stormed council meetings, forcing councilors to flee, in raucous protests against police brutality.
Although the MRAP vehicle may be scrapped, the APD is still set to go ahead with its acquisition of 350 assault rifles.