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Thursday, June 12, 2014 12:01 am

Monster truck

Sheriff gets mine-proof vehicle

PHOTO BY BRUCE RUSHTON

 

They say that you should never buy a car online. Then again, there is Uncle Sam’s Used Car Sales, aka the U.S. Department of Defense, where the Sangamon County sheriff’s office recently acquired something called a mine resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP for short.

At 11 feet high with a curb weight of nearly 27 tons, the MRAP is not designed for the timid. The diesel motor, manufactured by Caterpillar, is a worthy, if not quiet, power plant that gives plenty of warning that something big is en route. It features six-wheel drive, automatic transmission, electric doors (the armor is so heavy that it would be nigh impossible to close one by hand), bulletproof windows and ice-cold air conditioning that harkens to its roots as a vehicle designed for warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now that those wars are over, or nearly over, the feds have plenty of leftover MRAPs that they are not keen on giving to just anyone.

Enter police departments, which are snapping up MRAPs to use for, well, that’s a good question. Critics wonder why cops in towns as small as Justice (an Illinois burg that’s home to 13,000 people) need vehicles built for battlefields.

Undersheriff Jack Campbell says it’s a matter of safety. If a barricaded gunman wounds someone, for example, deputies can use the MRAP to rescue the injured person, he said.

“This is going to deflect any rifle that’s out there,” Campbell said. “That’s the whole point.”

Go ahead, shoot a tire – the flat-proof Goodyears on this bad boy won’t lose air. The feds offered a free set of spares but the office declined because the contractor who hauled the MRAP to Springfield from Texas couldn’t legally bring the spares along without his truck going over the legal weight.

MRAPs are not cheap. The one delivered to the sheriff’s office on May 29 cost $733,000, according to a sticker affixed to the body. But that’s just the sticker price. The sheriff’s office paid only $6,400, the cost of hauling it home, with the money coming from drug forfeitures. The odometer shows 776 miles.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com

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