Amid heightened attention about the militarization of police, law enforcement agencies across Mississippi are continuing to stock up on military-grade armored vehicles from federal surplus.

Two sheriffs in Mississippi who are beefing up their vehicle fleets with armored vehicles say they’re doing so to protect officers and save tax dollars by acquiring the vehicles at little or no cost. They say the vehicles, designed to protect military troops from improvised explosive devices and mines, can shield their officers from even the most high-level threats.

“I know an MRAP is overkill for public law enforcement, but I know that I don’t have to worry about anything in Rankin County penetrating it,” said Sheriff Bryan Bailey, whose department has applied to receive one of the surplus Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles via the Department of Defense 1033 program.

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DeSoto County in north Mississippi was the first in the state to receive a MRAP.

“I know an MRAP is overkill for public law enforcement,” acknowledges one sheriff.

DeSoto County Sheriff Bill Rasco said the acquisition of the MRAP was a months-long process with the Defense Logistics Agency’s Law Enforcement Support Office. The office is the conduit by which law enforcement agencies can acquire surplus military equipment such as weapons, vehicles and even aircraft at little or no cost.

Taxpayers paid for the equipment when the military purchased it. Local taxpayers will pay for maintenance and fuel.

“We felt like this was a good way to get a vehicle of this caliber that’d benefit our department,” Rasco said. “Whatever we can do to protect our men, that’s what we’re going to do.”

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Bailey said his department’s desire for an MRAP is to protect his deputies and save the county money instead of buying an armored vehicle commercially. Bailey said the MRAP would be used in a few scenarios, such as hostage or officer-down situations.

“There have been numerous incidents where people were threatening suicide and a vehicle like this could help us get an officer close enough to talk them out of it,” Bailey said. “I could pull right up to the house with this and not worry about my officers’ safety.”