If theres any truth to the adage The difference between the men and the boys is the size of their toys, Jefferson County Sheriff John P. Burns wont be mistaken for a kid anytime soon.
His department recently acquired an imposing military vehicle. If sheriffs deputies arrive on the scene inside this, youll know they mean business.
The Jefferson County Sheriffs Department obtained a 2008 International MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle from the U.S. Department of Defense. A federal law allows local law enforcement agencies to take possession of surplus military vehicles free of charge.
With a price tag of zero, what sheriffs department wouldnt want to add the ultimate monster truck to its fleet? Scofflaws who see this thing pull up in front of their homes will scurry to find all those unpaid parking tickets.
The MRAP is produced by Navistar Defense to offer greater protection to military personnel in war zones. It was designed to guard against the lethal impact of improvised explosive devices placed along roadsides in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Aside from IEDs, the MRAP can withstand ballistic arms fire and mine blasts as well as situations involving nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. These are certainly conditions that members of the U.S. armed forces are either facing or may confront, so vehicles like this are crucial under those circumstances.
But its difficult to imagine how a sheriffs department in the rural environment of Northern New York can take full advantage of the MRAPs capabilities. Jefferson County Undersheriff Paul W. Trudeau said the vehicle will be used by the Sheriffs Emergency Response Team, whose members are trained to deal with scenarios where people take hostages and/or barricade themselves in a structure.
The MRAP is designed to protect its occupants during an armed conflict. One of its purposes is to safely transport military personnel from one point to another in a war zone.
Protecting the Jefferson County SERT from outside attacks is a worthy goal, but these instances may be incredibly rare. Team members are trained to resolve hazardous situations by surrounding and entering barricaded structures.
So here is the dilemma: Once SERT personnel open the door of the MRAP and step outside, any protective benefit the vehicle offers is lost. And as long as team members remain inside the truck, they cant perform the duties for which they were trained.
While law enforcement agents and military personnel share many risks, the circumstances they encounter are often vastly different. The MRAP is one intimidating truck, but it wasnt designed to match the needs of sheriffs departments. Its usefulness to Jefferson County would be more for show than anything else particularly since the MRAP cant be driven on any local roads or bridges with a weight limit of 20 tons.
Nabbing this vehicle, however, wasnt a waste of time. The 2008 MRAP has an estimated price tag of about $600,000, so Sheriff Burns should see what the department could get for it on the open market.
Then he could use the proceeds to supply his deputies with the equipment they need to keep them safe while carrying out their duties. Being able to brag about owning an awesome-looking military vehicle is great, but acquiring items that will safeguard law enforcement agents in specific situations that theyll face is more important.