Residents of a virtually crime free county in Florida are expressing outrage over a decision by the Walton County Sheriff’s Office to purchase an MRAP armored vehicle normally used to hunt insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Walton County Sheriff’s Office got the mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle for the cost of transporting it. The vehicle, for which the department paid $2,500, was a surplus military vehicle that was demilitarized for law enforcement use,” reports NWF Daily News.
Walton County Sheriff’s Officer Mike Adkinson denied that the purchase of the vehicle was an attempt to militarize the police department, adding that he wouldn’t let public opinion get in the way of the “safety” of his colleagues.
“This is not the federal government intruding on your civil liberties,” wrote Adkinson in a Facebook post. “Would you really want them sent into harm’s way without the best protection available, simply because the military originally purchased this vehicle?”
This didn’t stop residents expressing their anger at the decision to buy the vehicle, with one commenting that the purchase represented “an offensive intimidation method used to controll [sic] and strike fear.”
Another respondent agreed, remarking, “This doesn’t make the officers safer. All studies show that the more militarized a department becomes, the more often officers get hurt. This is Walton County, Florida, not Iraq, not Afghanistan.”
As Justin King points out, despite Adkinson’s effort to justify the purchase by pointing to examples where cops have had to deal with suspects barricaded inside their homes, Walton is such a peaceful and virtually crime free neighborhood that it was used to represent an idyllic American town in the 1998 movie The Truman Show.
“Walton County is a part of Florida that is so crime free you can leave your doors unlocked. When Hollywood location scouts were looking for a community so perfect that it appeared to be fake, they came to Walton County. The Truman Show, staring Jim Carey, was filmed on location in a small Walton County community,” writes King, accusing the Sheriff’s department of abandoning common sense by purchasing the vehicle and pointing out that it is only likely to spur additional violence.
“This vehicle is an implement of war. It has no place in this county. The decision to bring this to a small community will only increase violence against citizens by creating a combat mindset in deputies. This violence will be returned, and deputies will face violence on a level not seen before in Walton County,” writes King.
The purchase of armored vehicles formerly used in anti-terror operations overseas has prompted widespread concern that domestic law enforcement in the United States is becoming increasingly militarized and violent. A recent ACLU investigation into the issue decried the fact that American neighborhoods are turning into warzones as SWAT tactics become more brutal, causing an increase in deaths, injuries and property damage.
Former Marine Corps Colonel Peter Martino, who was stationed in Fallujah and trained Iraqi soldiers, warned last year that the Department of Homeland Security is working with law enforcement to build a “domestic army,” because the federal government is afraid of its own citizens.
Martino was speaking at a council meeting concerning a decision to purchase a BearCat armored vehicle. The purchase of the vehicle was mired in controversy after the city’s Police Chief wrote in an application filing to the DHS that the vehicle was needed to deal with the “threat” posed by libertarians, sovereign citizen adherents, and Occupy activists in the region.
Since the winding down of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Department of Defense has been donating armored vehicles to the Department of Homeland Security which in turn has been selling them to police departments across the country.
Last month we reported on how police in the Wisconsin town of Neenah had to resort to reassuring residents that military trucks obtained from the U.S. Army now being deployed for domestic law enforcement duties won’t be used to fire on the locals.
In another report last month, Indiana Police Sergeant Dan Downing admitted that the militarization of domestic law enforcement was partly to deal with returning veterans who are now seen as a homegrown terror threat. A local Fox affiliate reported that the cops were now “armed for war” against such threats.