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Michigan police agencies requesting more armored vehicles

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Seven months after an executive order from President Barack Obama called for the removal of militarized vehicles in cities across the country, 14 Michigan police agencies could receive new armored vehicles from the federal government.

These agencies expressed interest in getting the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles as of Dec. 21, 2015 with the 1033 program, which is led by the Defense Logistics Agency in the Defense Department. The program provides support to the country’s law enforcement with military surplus supplies.

The vehicles are designed to protect against explosives, shootings, and other kinds of attacks. Of the 14 Michigan police agencies that have expressed interest, two have already been approved: the Macomb County and the Oakland County sheriff departments.

“Worst case scenario it’s a way to get innocent people away form the situation as well,” Macomb County Undersheriff Elizabeth Darga said.

Susan Lowe, a public affairs specialist with the Defense Logistics Agency, toldthe Detroit Free Press that 396 law enforcement agencies across the country asked for the MRAPs, and 11 in total have been awarded them so far. 

In June, President Obama issued an executive order to remove surplus military equipment similar to these vehicles, and other technology, from local police departments. The effort came as a response to the ongoing issue of police brutality, following criticism of how police handled the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. in August 2014 and the subsequent protests in the city and around the country. 

Darga said the vehicles provide protection for citizens, rather than cause harm.

“People say it’s a militaristic vehicle or that we’re going to use it in that situation,” Darga said. “It’s really to protect the citizens of Macomb County, as well as the officers that work the road every day.”

Darga said the MRAP vehicles can be used for shooting or hostage situations, or to help move innocent people to safety.

The Saginaw Police Department is one of the local agencies that returned an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC), which moved on tracks not wheels, in December in response to Obama’s executive order. Several weeks later, they, too, are interested in the MRAPs.

Saginaw Police Chief Robert Ruth told MLivethe vehicle was used twice since the department acquired it in 2006. The two situations both involved a gunman, and both gunmen surrendered.

Since 2006, police agencies in Michigan have received $43 million in military surplus equipment, according to a Detroit Free Press report from 2014. This equipment includes 17 MRAPs, automatic rifles, utility trucks, and helicopters, among other items.

- Jennifer Calfas and Paulette Parker, Michigan Radio Newsroom