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WASHINGTON, Iowa - Washington Police will be getting an armored vehicle that's typically used by the U.S. military.
Tuesday night, in a four to one decision, the Washington City Council approved Police Chief Greg Goodman's request for a "demilitarized" MRAP or Mine Resistant Ambush Protected troop transport. The MRAP police will be getting is missing the weapons turret, other military hardware and electronics. Officials said it's essentially a big armored truck.
MRAPs typically cost about $500,000. Washington Police are getting theirs for free under a U.S. Defense Department program that gives surplus military equipment to law enforcement. Washington Police said the only cost will be the transportation fee to bring vehicle up from Texas.
Chief Goodman calls the MRAP a big win for his officers' safety.
"Is it going to be used a lot? No. I don't anticipate that at all. But, it really only takes once to make it worth its while," said Goodman.
Goodman said while some in Washington worry the MRAP will militarize his 11-officer department, that's not the case. He said the vehicle will be used in special circumstances such as active shooters.
The chief said he saw the need for an MRAP in 2011, when Keokuk County Sgt. Eric Stein was shot and killed by a gunman. Goodman believes the armored vehicle might have allowed police to approach the home in safety from gunfire and use non-lethal means to subdue the shooter.
The city's mayor, Sandra Johnson, agreed.
"We currently have no vehicles that are armored in any way to protect from any gunshot fire," said Johnson.
Bob Shellmyer was the only member of the council who voted against acquiring the MRAP. He worried the city would invest a lot of money to make the vehicle ready for police use. Shellmyer was also concerned about the MRAP's annual upkeep costs.
"Can we afford it? Everybody talks about this being a free program and it's far from free. There will be a lot of expenses attached to it," said Shellmyer.
Mayor Johnson said the armored vehicle, which gets about five miles to the gallon of fuel, would only cost a few thousand dollars a year to operate because of its limited use.
City officials said they plan to work with other departments within a several county region to not only share the use of the MRAP, but also its costs.
Washington police expect to have the MRAP join their vehicle fleet before the end of the year.