Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal
APD’s 14-foot-tall, 45,000-pound Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle – aka MRAP – is going away.
Albuquerque police officials said Tuesday they plan to get rid of the vehicle because the department doesn’t need it.
The department has had it for about eight months but has never used it in the field, said Janet Blair, an APD spokeswoman.
She said the department has other armored vehicles it can use instead of the MRAP, though the inventory and information about armored vehicles owned by APD were not available Tuesday.
“There are other vehicles that have the same function,” Blair said.
Police often use armored vehicles during SWAT team deployments or rescue scenarios. Blair said APD’s armored vehicles are “defensive” and have no mounted weapons.
Police acquired the more than $600,000 MRAP from the military for nothing other than transportation costs, Blair said.
In recent years, the military hired contractors to build more than 24,000 MRAPs during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense website. The vehicles can withstand certain explosives. As the military scaled back operations in those countries, American law enforcement agencies have been able to obtain the vehicles.
Blair said the department will work with the state to find a new owner for the MRAP. A spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU in New Mexico, said APD’s armored vehicles and SWAT team tactics are examples of police militarization, something the ACLU has raised concerns about throughout the country.
“The MRAP is a symbol of that in so many ways,” Simonson said. Police using military tactics “tends to escalate incidents that may … not require violence.”
Simonson said that while giving back an MRAP is a step in the right direction, he said the ACLU still wants the department to address the use of its SWAT team.
“What are the criteria APD uses to determine when SWAT teams will be deployed?” Simonson said.
He said SWAT teams were created to respond to hostage situations and active shooter scenarios, but that the teams are often used in Albuquerque to serve search and arrest warrants.
“We are not out to militarize the police department,” Blair said. “We are looking to ensure we have the proper equipment in place to protect officers and the citizens of Albuquerque.”
Reform of APD’s tactical units, including SWAT, is among the issues that will be addressed in an agreement being negotiated between the city and U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ issued a scathing report earlier this year finding that APD has had a pattern and practice of using excessive force.
New Mexico Watchdog, which reported Tuesday that APD was considering doing away with its MRAP, stated in the report that 20 local law enforcement agencies in New Mexico have an MRAP.