I feel better now knowing the MRAP is for parade duty only.
The situation in Missouri is raising questions about the use of assault weapons and armored vehicles by law enforcement. Those questions have been posed before here in Richland County.
Sheriff Leon Lott appeared before the Columbia Rotary Club on Monday to answer plenty of those questions.
For example, the sheriff’s department has its own mine-resistant, ambush protected, or M-RAP, called “Mojo.”
It’s an intimidating piece of military-grade equipment, but it’s worth its weight in armor when it comes to creating good community relations, according to Lott.
“If the community doesn’t trust us, then we’re not doing our jobs,” said Lott. “And it’s not just about locking people up.”
Lott called in the M-RAP and members of his Special Response Team to demonstrate some of the crime-fighting tools at his disposal. Lott says the former military vehicles, including a tank called the “Peacemaker,” are used mostly for PR purposes.
“I have every piece of equipment there is,” said Lott. “And we’ve had them for years. And you probably see them out every weekend. You go to any church, festival, community group, school, you name it. The number one requested piece of equipment that people want to see is our tank and our M-RAP. They want to see this stuff. We show it, we take it out. We want people to see it. Why? For one we want the bad guys to know that we got it. Maybe that will scare them off.”
Lott says he disagrees with many of the tactics and actions taken so far by law enforcement in Ferguson. He says for instance, police officers should not be aiming weapons at unarmed protesters.