Tennessee sheriff says mine-resistant vehicle from the feds is ‘primarily to show the kids’ – By Natalie Allison (Nashville Tennessean) / April 12 2019
A state department says it was “thrilled” to help a local sheriff obtain a military surplus mine-resistant vehicle — an announcement met with dismay by hundreds of Tennesseans on Twitter.
The Tennessee Department of General Services tweeted Thursday a photo of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, known as an MRAP, that it had assisted the Greene County Sheriff’s Department with obtaining from the federal government free of cost.
“We’re thrilled that our LESO program, in our Vehicle and Asset Management division, was able to supply” the sheriff’s department with the MRAP, General Services posted to Twitter, along with a photo of the vehicle, the chief deputy and a local businessman who painted the department name on it free of charge.
We're thrilled that our LESO program, in our Vehicle and Asset Management division, was able to supply @GreeneSheriff with this mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle (MRAP) for the agency’s use. 📷: @GreeneSun pic.twitter.com/NHKOTpcZIn
— TN Department of General Services (@TennDGS) April 11, 2019
Military tank ‘primarily to show the kids,’ sheriff says
Greene County Sheriff Wesley Holt said the MRAP has so far been used “primarily to show the kids” and not for any other purpose.
And despite the state agency showing off the MRAP this week, Holt said the department received it a couple years ago.
“We’ve had that thing for a while,” Holt said. “What we finally did was had it striped.”
As of Friday afternoon, roughly 500 Twitter users had replied to General Services tweet about the military vehicle — mostly to joke about whether the department expected warfare in the Greeneville area.
“Are you anticipating mines, IEDs, or a complex ambush in Greene County?” one user tweeted.
“I suppose if radicalized Iran-backed Appalachian insurgents start planting IEDs along Shiloh Rd between Tusculum and Greeneville, they’ll be ready?” someone else replied.
Are you anticipating mines, IEDs, or a complex ambush in Greene County? What is composition and disposition of the threat that you face?
If you are trying to demonstrate security and safety to your citizens, you have failed. pic.twitter.com/AKJiCr2rHv
— GlycerineGrey1886 (@GGrey1886) April 12, 2019
Will this be used against the rising number of hate groups in TN? https://t.co/Hi3SSONb77
— Robert Garrett Williams (@Williams4TN) April 12, 2019
— Daniel A. Horwitz (@Scot_Blog) April 12, 2019
I suppose if radicalized Iran-backed Appalachian insurgents start planting IEDs along Shiloh Rd between Tusculum and Greeneville, they’ll be ready?
— Todd Breasseale (@TBreassealeDHS) April 12, 2019
According to its application submitted to General Services, the sheriff’s department intended to use the MRAP for SWAT response, including for barricaded suspects, during active shootings and for natural disasters.
Holt pointed to a police shooting Sunday that left two Greeneville Police Department officers injured after exchanging fire with a suspect inside of an apartment.
“We could’ve took this armored vehicle over there and pulled right up to the front door and kept our officers safe inside that armored vehicle,” Holt said.
Records show the sheriff’s department applied in 2016 for the MRAP and two military cargo trucks. The department already had three Humvees and three road tractors in its fleet.
Dave Roberson, director of communications for General Services, said 61 MRAPs have been placed with law enforcement agencies around the state.
State serves as military equipment liaison between feds, local cops
General Services’ Law Enforcement Support Office, known as LESO, is tasked with facilitating the transfer of surplus military equipment from the federal Department of Defense to local police and sheriff’s departments around the state.
According to General Services’ summary of the law enforcement equipment program, there is “special emphasis given to counter-drug and counter-terrorism” initiatives.
The cost of participating in the LESO program ranges from $400 to $1,000 annually, depending on the size of the police department or sheriff’s office.
Holt said the program offers helpful equipment that improves officer safety. The MRAP is kept locked away in the county’s secure transportation facility.
“It’s not like we’re militarizing the police,” Holt said.
“The way I look at it, it’s bringing our tax dollars that’s already been spent by the federal government back to our county to use.”