Livingston Co. sheriff acquires military equipment

Department has acquired a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected, or MRAP, vehicle

By Lisa Roose-Church
Livingston County Daily Press & Argus (Howell)

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) — The Livingston County Sheriff’s Department has a new tool in its arsenal for use during high-risk situations, such as one involving a barricaded gunman.

The department acquired a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected, or MRAP, vehicle for its tactical team through the military’s Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office, which is managed by the Defense Logistics Agency. The office takes military equipment that is no longer usable and “demilitarizes” it, making it available to law enforcement agencies nationwide.

“As far as we know, we’re the first law enforcement agency in the United States to get the MRAP,” Detective Lt. Scott Domine explained to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. “It was allocated through Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

“We will use it someplace we have to have advanced ballistic protection, such as a barricaded gunman,” he added. “This gives us the ability to approach a target (safely) and to get from point A to point B. It can be used for extrication as well.”

Sheriff Bob Bezotte added: “In the old days, when we approached a house, especially in a rural community, you might have to go down a driveway 50 or 100 yards before you got to the residence and hoping that someone wasn’t going to take a shot at you. This allows us to approach a house, any location, in a safe manner. ... The value of having this vehicle is just invaluable.”

The MRAP replaces the department’s current armored personnel carrier, or APC, which will be returned to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO), which will make it available to another law enforcement agency.

The department first acquired the APC after hearing news reports of an elderly North Carolina man who shot an 8-year-old girl because he was tired of children cutting across his yard. The man also shot and killed two officers who responded to a 911 call to help the girl, who bled to death because police could not get close enough to the scene to help her or their fallen comrades.

That long-ago news story led Domine and a co-worker to suggest that the department find a way to acquire an APC, which the department used in 2009 when a nearly 26-year U.S. Army veteran armed himself against police. Officers used the APC to extricate two adult females and three children, ages infant to 4 years, from behind a red barn.

Domine said replacing the APC with the MRAP will allow for a more efficient response because the APC had to be hauled using a 53-foot trailer while the MRAP doesn’t need to be hauled on a trailer.

The 41,000-pound military surplus vehicle, which was used in Kuwait, was initially developed to protect military personnel from improvised explosive devices.

“This vehicle has a V-hull, which deflects explosive devices,” Domine said. “Instead of a flat bottom, it’s shaped like a boat, so it deflects an explosion out in a V-pattern, which allows the vehicle to withstand an explosion.”

In 2007, the Department of Defense had 1,300 MRAPs in theater, according to information from the U.S. Department of Defense. The military called the vehicle its “single most effective counter to improvised explosive devices.”

The MRAP acquired by the Sheriff’s Department has a little more than 5,000 miles on it. It is six-wheel drive and is powered by a CAT C-7 diesel motor, which is similar to motors used in bulldozers or similar large equipment.

The Sheriff’s Department acquired the $412,000 vehicle free. Under DRMO guidelines, the Sheriff’s Department is responsible for the maintenance, which is completed by Sheriff’s Department personnel who volunteer their time and mechanical skills, when needed.

“This vehicle is not an aggressive military vehicle; it’s nothing more than a shell with advanced ballistics protection,” Domine said. “We’re using this to protect the citizens of Livingston County and the deputies. It has no weaponry attached to it. It’s a transport vehicle that allows us to approach an area that doesn’t have concealment.”