Council approves MRAPArmored vehicle expected to be delivered before the end of the year
Every member of the Washington City Council who was present Tuesday said they had received calls from constituents who were concerned about the Washington Police Department receiving an armored vehicle. Despite that, the council approved allowing the department to receive the vehicle 4-1.
Council member Bob Shellmyer cast the vote against the city taking possession of the government surplus military vehicle. During the two-hour presentation and discussion of the vehicle, Shellmyer said he would have voted to approve the vehicle if the police department got written contracts from neighboring counties to help pay for maintenance as part of a usage agreement. The other council members cited officer safety as the reason they voted to approve the vehicle.
“To the people who have contacted me and asked me to vote ‘no,’ – I would like you to sit back here and vote ‘no,’ then look at Officer See’s wife and tell her because we refused an armored vehicle he is not coming home,” said council member Russ Zieglowsky. “Or, telling Sheriff Dunbar’s family he is not coming home because of a contractual issue we didn’t get a vehicle that could possibly save those lives. I don’t know that we need it. I pray to God we never have to use it, but we all carry homeowners insurance even though we pray we never have to use it.”
Washington Police Chief Greg Goodman believes the city will take possession of the vehicle before the end of the year. Goodman said the $500,000 vehicle, including a projected $70,000 of costs to demilitarize it, would be free of charge to Washington other than the cost of retrieving it from a military base in Texas. The department is still deciding whether to have the MRAP brought to Washington in a semi, or to just drive it back from Texas. The MRAP gets about five miles to the gallon. The city will also have to cover the cost of maintenance and insurance.
Goodman acknowledged that incidents involving the need for such a vehicle are rare, but said that it only takes one tragic incident to make the possession of such a vehicle worthwhile. The military’s 1033 program offers surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies.
The vehicle the police department will receive is a six-wheeled Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle built by Caiman. The vehicle has been modified for civilian use. The top gun turret had been removed and the vehicle was painted. Goodman said that the vehicle was reconditioned; so all the parts except the exterior armor will be new. He said it is similar to a regular diesel truck with armor plating. He said the city mechanic will be able to work on it and, other than routine maintenance, he doesn’t believe the vehicle will be costly.
During the presentation, several law enforcement officers spoke of their experience responding to an incident on April 4, 2011, when Keokuk County Sheriff’s deputy Sgt. Eric Stein was shot and killed. The Washington County Tactical team was one of the first teams on site and helped rescue the Keokuk County sheriff and chief deputy, who were still pinned down by weapon fire when the Washington County officers arrived. All believed that an armored vehicle would have been able to aid in removing them from the scene in a safer manner, as well as aid in apprehending the gunman.
According to a press release from former Keokuk County Sheriff Jeff Shipley, Jeffrey Krier had opened fire on Stein, Shipley and another deputy. The release said that shotgun slugs disabled Stein’s Ford Explorer truck before Stein was killed when a slug went through the window of his vehicle and hit him in the head.
Washington County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar said that he has spoken with several area sheriffs, who had expressed interest in entering an agreement with the Washington Police Department. He said the county will provide $1,500 per year for maintenance and a place to store the vehicle. Goodman said the city also has a storage facility for the vehicle.
During the presentation, Goodman said that the vehicle would be used as a rescue vehicle to save people under fire. The officers present said that, as far as incidents with an active shooter, it is not a matter of if, but of when.
Shellmyer said he planned to vote against the acquisition. He said he was concerned about the size of the vehicle. The MRAP is about 8 feet wide, 10 feet tall, and 26 feet long. Goodman said the police department did not have a choice of vehicles and could only take the one authorized. Shellmyer also said he believed Washington County should own the vehicle. Goodman said that in order for the police department to relinquish the title, all the armor plating would have to be removed.
Goodman said that the acquisition of the unit had taken several years. He said that if the council had not approved the department’s immediate acceptance when the surplus department said the vehicle was ready, it would have just gone to the next department on the list. He said many departments are on waiting lists for the vehicles.