American law enforcement agencies have received 165 MRAPs – 18 ton, armored vehicles with gun turrets – this year, according to an AP investigation. Military officials say police have filed requests for 731 more, but none are available.“It’s armored. It’s heavy. It’s intimidating. And it’s free,” Craig Apple, the sheriff of Albany County, told AP.Each of the hulking military vehicles costs around $500,000, and before the MRAPs can be used by law enforcement agencies they have to be refitted for civilian use. Even after retro-fitting, the vehicles are still limited. Because of their size, the vehicles are unable to cross some bridges and travel on narrow roads.The investigation revealed that some of the MRAPs have already been put to use. In the city of Boise, Idaho, police deployed the vehicle because they suspected a suspect was in possession of heavy firearms and explosives. In Nampa, police used their MRAP to protect officers from a potential explosion.The distribution of the armored military vehicles to police forces has prompted strong opposition from US rights groups. The American Civil Liberties Union ACLU has attacked the military surplus program, branding it a move to militarize law enforcement.
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