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Indiana town's police force gets armored carrier from military

mrap-afghanistan.jpg

March 25, 2010: An Afghan truck is driven past U.S. Army Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicles of 508th Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, at an Afghan Police checkpoint on the Highway One, the main Afghan road around the country, outside the town of Kandahar, southern Afghanistan. Police and sheriff's departments in the U.S. have obtained 165 MRAP vehciles leftover from the Iraq war. (Reuters)

An armored carrier the West Lafayette police department recently acquired from the U.S. military is being refitted and will soon serve as a "moving shield" for officers, the city's police chief said.

Police Chief Jason Dombkowski said the big truck, which has armored plating intended to protect its occupants from bomb blasts, is essentially on permanent loan from the military but can be recalled by the federal government at any time.

He said the vehicle will be used by his department's SWAT team when it responds to standoffs and other dangerous situations to give them cover from suspects who might shoot at them.

"What that thing is, it's a moving shield for our officers to make an approach. It is a large shield for our officers to move behind," Dombkowski told the Journal & Courier.

"When I call on my officers to go into harm's way, I owe it to them and to their families to provide them with available equipment to protect themselves and rescue citizens."

The truck, valued at about $600,000, was built in 2008 and has never been in combat but has about 11,000 miles on it.

Officers parked the armored carrier outside the police station when it arrived, attracting a crowd of gawkers.

The hulking black truck will be sent to a local National Guard Armory this week for modifications, including removal of the gun turret mounted atop the vehicle. The changes will cost taxpayers about $4,000, Dombkowski said.

The only other recurring cost is likely to be the annual insurance bill likely amounting to several hundred dollars, said West Lafayette Clerk-treasurer Judy Rhodes.

City Councilman Peter Bunder, an outspoken critic of the city's fiscal matters, said the truck's acquisition and its upkeep is not a big expense to West Lafayette taxpayers.

"If they want a big truck, they can have a big truck," he said.

Dombkowski said that when the truck's upgrade is finished it will also be available for other law enforcement agencies in the region.

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