Johnson County Sheriff’s Office proposal to replace military-style armored vehicle has critics
JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG) - Critics spoke out against the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office proposal to spend $240,000 to replace its military-style armored vehicle with a newer, smaller version.
Johnson County Sheriff Brad Kunkel included the vehicle in his budget presentation to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Monday. The proposal would replace the military-style MRAP (mine-resistant armored personnel vehicle) with a smaller Bearcat, similar to the one Linn County currently uses.
Several people in the audience held signs against “military policing” and it drew several public comments against it, including a petition against it. Those who spoke argued any armored vehicle only furthers the militarization of police and does not answer criticism of the current MRAP.
“You are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on an unnecessary and dangerous military vehicle to get rid of another unnecessary and dangerous military vehicle,” Taylor Kohn told the Board. “You want it to look like you’re doing something about the MRAP because you know the public opposes it but you don’t want to do anything meaningful to change.”
During his presentation, Sheriff Kunkel told the board he understands community frustration with the armored vehicle but pointed to the protection it offers his deputies when encountering dangerous situations.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office got the MRAP for free in 2014 as part of a federal program to dispose of old military equipment. It became the target of protests and public complaints in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and ensuing protests against police in Iowa City.
The Supervisors appeared divided on the budget issue to purchase the Bearcat. Supervisor Jon Green spoke against it, calling it “inappropriate to have weapons of war in our community”. But Supervisor Royceann Porter said she supported the purchase of the smaller Bearcat as an alternative to the larger MRAP.
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