You’ve got to be kidding me. Sadly, no, as the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports:
Short for Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, MRAP weighs nearly 14 tons and is built to survive a blast from an improvised explosive device.
The Cheyenne Police Department got its own MRAP last month, and the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department is on a waiting list for another.
Of course the sheriff’s department wants one, too.
On March 15 of last year I appeared on KGAB radio (check out our podcasts page) and briefly discussed police militarization. A caller asked, in regards to arming local SWAT teams, “are we overdoing it a little bit on that?” At the time, I expressed support for a well-armed police force, and I still largely hold this opinion, with the qualification that law-abiding citizens have access to the same arms as the police. Where I went wrong was stating “I don’t know that here in Cheyenne we need tanks and things like that or—what are they called?—those armored personnel carriers and things of that nature. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one rolling down the street of Cheyenne either.”
Sadly, it was only a matter of time.
The Tribune Eagle article describes everything from hostage situations to weather conditions as the police department’s justifications for the Cheyenne MRAP, but none of them are persuasive. Appropriate reasons for the police to utilize such a vehicle amount to little more than bad jokes (for example, a Die Hard scenario at the Wyoming Financial Center). No matter the reasons, they do not overcome the detrimental effect of overwhelming force. Even if it’s locked in a garage somewhere 364 days of the year, the MRAP sends a stark message of what our local police can unleash. Using this MRAP—even its mere presence—would certainly hinder criminal activity, but it also threatens plenty of legitimate activity, from public demonstrations to backyard barbeques.
Cheyenne already has safe streets, and I give plenty of credit to our police department for that. With the new MRAP on the block, the streets are actually scarier.
Since beginning to work on reforming civil asset forfeiture in Wyoming, I have witnessed a fair amount of pushback from the law enforcement lobby. I have been very clear that police have not abused Wyoming’s law like agencies in some other states, but even just saying it is a bad law that can be easily abused implies (to them, anyway) that I don’t have enough trust in our police. My response is simple: we are a government of laws and not of men, and the Bill of Rights places very cautious limits on those in power. Even when checked, those in power will do silly, overly ambitious, or dangerous things. Like, say, acquiring military-grade hardware for use in a quiet town of 60,000 people.
The Cheyenne Police Department does not need a Mine-Resistant and Ambush Protected vehicle. Our MRAP should be sent to a boneyard or, better yet, cut down and sold for scrap.