Sheriff of Quiet Florida Town Acquires Military-Style Tank to Protect Officers' "Safety"
Walton County Sheriff's Office (WCSO)
Remember Jim Carrey's 1998 hit The Truman Show? As pointed out by Justin King, the movie was filmed in a hushed and peaceful Northwest Florida town:
"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, starring Jim Carrey, was filmed on location in a small Walton County community. The twins in the movie were both Walton County lawmen on set to direct traffic."
The county's sheriff, though, recently approved the purchase of a mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle (MRAP) that cost more than $500,000 to build. The sheriff's office had to pay only a $2,500 delivery fee, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News, but residents are still infuriated. Sheriff Mike Adkinson says it's needed to protect the safety of his officers. The last time one of his men died on duty it was during a search for illegal whiskey. In 1942.
Thanks to the Department of Defense's military surplus sales system -- AKA the 1033 program -- civilian agencies can buy battle-tested equipment on the cheap. This, swirled with a sheriff in need of new toys, led Mike Atkinson to post this on the WCSO's Facebook page after the purchase.
"It is important to realize that ANY rifle round will penetrate an officers body armor. This includes the common .22cal round. In the past 6 years the WCSO has come under fire from HUNDREDS of rounds during calls. We routinely take assault weapons of persons arrested. An example of this was an incident in which a man handcuffed an AK-47 assault rifle and confronted deputies. During another violent encounter over 100 rounds were exchanged during a shootout inside DeFuniak Springs. During the same time frame we have dealt with 9 barricaded subjects the majority of which had rifles at their disposal. The armored vehicle allows us to get close to the suspect without unnecessary danger. Again a rifle round can penetrate a vehicle and body armor. Certainly a $2,500 surplus vehicle is good insurance. We handle almost double the number of calls for service from a decade ago and unfortunately not all of those can be handled with customer service. This is not the federal government intruding on your civil liberties Would you really want them sent into harm's way without the best protection available, simply because the military originally purchased this vehicle? The men and women who serve as deputy sheriff's in this county are your friends and neighbors. This is your Sheriff trying to protect your deputies."
Alas, not all of the sheriff's claims could hold, according to the aptly named theantimedia.org:
"The incident involving the AK-47 happened six years ago, and it wasn't really an AK-47. It was an AK-47 styled rifle, but it was semi-automatic. Though it looked like the rifles carried by insurgents, it lacked the capacity for fully automatic fire. The man was fatally shot by a deputy. He had intended on committing suicide prior to the arrival of law enforcement. Unless the Sheriff plans on deploying the MRAP for every domestic violence call in the area, it is unlikely it would have played a part in the incident.
This journalist could not find an incident in which over 100 rounds were fired in Defuniak Springs. In a town of less than 6000, such an incident probably would have made the news. There was an incident back in 2009 when witnesses say 30 to 40 rounds were fired, most by Walton County deputies, when they killed an alleged cop killer and wife beater from a neighboring county. The deputies were able to successfully defeat the man without the use of guided-missiles, chemical weapons, airstrikes, drones, or MRAPs."
The problems with the 30,000-pound investment don't stop there. The American Civil Liberties Union released a 98-page study last month that looked at 800 deployments by Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams from 20 law enforcement agencies between 2011 and 2012. As Personal Liberty noted, the study found that SWAT teams use giant toys like this often. And they were used the vast majority of the time for something other than what SWAT teams were created for:
"It found that more than three-fourths of the deployments were executed -- often using MRAPs -- to search a person's home, and more than 60 percent of the time the searches were for drugs. But in at least 36 percent of the SWAT raids studied, no drugs were found. And because police reports were often incomplete, the ACLU notes that the actual figure could be as high as 65 percent. SWAT teams were originally created to respond to hostage, barricade or active shooter scenarios. But only 7 percent of deployments in the ACLU study were employed for SWAT teams' original intent."