Area sheriffs expect replacement military vehicles soon

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Correction:

The first name of Wayne County Undersheriff Daniel Pfannes was incorrect in a Tuesday story about Metro Detroit law enforcement agencies anticipating receiving replacement surplus military vehicles.

Mount Clemens — Three Metro Detroit sheriff’s offices said Monday they hope to soon take delivery on surplus military vehicles — maybe even this month — to replace those ordered returned to the federal government last year.

Spokesmen at the Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County sheriff’s offices said they are among law enforcement groups nationally who have requested a Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle the military has in storage.

All three departments returned surplus vehicles last month on directives from President Barack Obama’s administration after citizens expressed concerns about police agencies taking on a military look with armored, tracked vehicles used in barricaded gunmen and hostage situations.

Last May, after objections were raised following incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, involving standoffs between citizens and police, the Obama administration said it would no longer pay for or transfer eight categories of military gear and equipment to local law enforcement and planned to recall some equipment, including tracked armored vehicles, grenade launchers, bayonet knives and armed aircraft.

The recall sparked angry responses from many in and outside law enforcement, including Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, the county’s former sheriff, who stressed such vehicles could be life-savers for first responders involved in many situations.

The MRAP vehicles — while also armor plated and bullet resistant — are apparently not objectionable, according to Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, because they do not have tank-like tracks around their wheels.

“This (MRAP) is something we need for the protection of officers and also for our citizens,” Wickersham said Monday. “We view this as an important tool to transport SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams into ‘hot zones’ where they could be under fire. They can also be used to safely remove students from hot zone situations.

“We are excited about getting one of the vehicles which we hope to have picked up and delivered soon.”

The 70,000-pound vehicles — used by the military in Afghanistan and Iraq — are in storage in Little Rock, Arkansas, Wickersham said. They are being provided to police agencies free of charge but it is the responsibility of recipients to pay for and arrange transportation costs.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said he is also eager to add an MRAP to his fleet, which includes two Humvees.

“This MRAP is a defensive, not an offensive, weapon,” Bouchard said. “It is not armed with any weaponry. It is a vehicle that we see as important to use in situations like one in which a police officer was shot and we were moving deputies in and civilians out of an area. Having one of these on hand would have been a real plus.”

Daniel Pfannes, Wayne County undersheriff, said his department has been notified it is on a “waiting list” for an MRAP.

“We are excited but there are caveats,” he said. “These are used and there are no guarantees on their operational capability and you can’t drive it off the base. So we will have to figure out if it is towed or trailered back to Michigan — from whatever location — and will the costs outweigh any gains.”

He also stressed there are no offensive plans for the vehicle.

“Contrary to what some people think this is not a tank,” he said. “It’s an armored environment for the safety of whomever is inside it. Like an armored car used to transport money. But these will be used to transport people in particular situations.”

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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