CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- People are concerned police departments are starting to look like military units. The issue came up at Thursday night's county board meeting. People talked about police using tasers, drones and now a mine-resistant armor-protected vehicle. Sheriff Dan Walsh says they have the vehicle to keep everyone safe. WCIA-3's Maggie Hockenberry has more.
The Champaign County Sheriff's Office recently got the vehicle. It came from the military, but it will only be used in high-risk calls. Some say they're worried about the message it sends to the public.
"Militarization of the police is a growing concern nationwide."
The Champaign County Sheriff's Office added another type of vehicle to their force. It's called a MRAP; Mine Resistant Armor Protected Vehicle.
"We will use it for high-risk situations like barricaded or hostage situations. Things like that."
Sheriff Walsh says he didn't have a choice when it came to getting the MRAP. He put the county on the military surplus list and the vehicle was awarded for free.
"I want to protect my officers. We want to protect the civilians."
Some say the vehicle is not what they want to see on their streets.
"It's too dangerous having it."
"Military cars moving in the streets. This poisons the serenity and the tranquility in the community."
The department added an armored vehicle to the squad for safety.
"Something that's reliable and has ballistic stopping capabilities. So, if someone's shooting at us, it will stop bullets."
It wasn't the sheriff's first choice. He wanted to get a civilian vehicle, but the cost is more than $300,000.
"I'd like to decommission the MRAP and, in other words, send it back to the federal government."
Currently, the vehicle is being repainted. When it's done, officers will get some training needed to operate it.
Other concerns raised include the use of drones and military rifles. Sheriff Walsh says the county has one drone, but it's broke and there are no plans to fix it. As for the rifles, they're the same weapon which can be purchased at a store.
CHAMPAIGN COUNTY -- The sheriff's office received a demilitarized Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle from the military at no charge. It will be used by METRO SWAT for a variety of emergencies including armed subject, high-risk warrant, search and rescue, or potential explosive device situations. The vehicle is getting a new paint job. It replaces a 28-year old armored car in the department.
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