CLAY COUNTY, Mo. - It is 54,000 pounds of military steel that Clay County hopes it never needs to use, but when a U.S. military MRAP became available for the cost of the gas money to drive it up from Texas this spring, the sheriff’s department felt it had a deal too good to pass up.
“There was a desperate need for something like this,” Captain Matt Hunter told 41 Action News. “The MRAP here is more than just a tactical vehicle.”
With its acquisition of the heavily armored, but unarmed, vehicle over Easter weekend this year, Clay County became the seventh Missouri community to receive a free MRAP from the Department of Defense, according to a New York Times analysis.
Police departments around the country are snapping up the vehicles-- no longer needed in Iraq or Afghanistan, now free to law enforcement as they are retrofitted and brought home from the battlefield – to replace antiquated SWAT or tactical vehicles and to use as rescue vehicles.
That’s exactly how Hunter hopes to use Clay County’s new 10-foot-tall, highway-lane wide behemoth.
“This is something that we'll probably use, hopefully, maybe, once or twice a year,” Hunter said.
He ticked off floods, tornado aftermath and active shooter situations in which the MRAP might be deployed.
“That’s a $750,000 machine that we got for absolutely nothing,” Hunter said. “Taxpayers didn't have to pay anything for it.”
While the vehicle and replacement parts were provided for free, the county will foot the bill for gas and for any upgrades – like lights, fresh paint and replacing jump seats – that the vehicle needs.
The acquisition of military vehicles by civilian police departments has been met with some criticism from groups and individuals who say the increased militarization of police departments is a dangerous trend. If police departments have bigger trucks, guns and other military equipment, they will find ways to use them, perhaps irresponsibly.
Captain Hunter defended his department’s acquisition of the MRAP.
“We had a couple of negative responses, but mostly it’s all been positive,” he said. “It’s for the safety of the citizens of Clay County.”