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Driving along Interstate 44 the other day, I had occasion to snap the above photo. This was not an armored truck carrying a mountain of cash to various and sundry establishments around our fair city but rather a lumbering monument to the militarization of the police. Maybe I’m wrong – I will entertain that possibility  – but do the cops really need an armored car to go serve a warrant? Before you answer that, notice the gun ports. Now, as far as I understand it . . .

An armored car is designed to provide the occupants safety from sustained assault. Picking up and delivering cash makes the vehicle and occupants targets. The gun ports and thick steel make sense given the value of the contents. Has a SWAT team ever had to hunker down inside a rolling Fort Apache until the cavalry arrived?  Ever?

I believe in law and order, and the man with a badge is more than just a man. He or she is an officer of the court and a representative of the rule of law.  I want them to be safe but a fortified armored vehicle running well up into the six figures seems more than a little excessive. What does an armored SWAT truck bring to the party a good size step van doesn’t?

Insult to injury – the damn thing was filthy, too. Just sayin’ . . .

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  1. I’ve always wondered what arbitrary process they use to determine who gets SWATed. In Chicago, a friend of mine from high school with a long arrest record had an arrest warrant for a drug related charge served to him at home by 2 sheriff’s deputies. Another high school friend of mine with a clean record in the northern burbs (but still in Cook county) had a search warrant served by a SWAT team because his neighbors saw him carrying long gun soft cases (which had BB guns) in to his home. They were dicks and threatened to shoot his dog. Long guns were not illegal in this suburb, no charges were filled or the ASA dropped the case, and his BB guns were eventually returned.

  2. Damn good question, Matt.

    Owning a gun ought not automatically get you upgraded from fat-ass deputies to (slightly less fat-ass) SWAT team. SWAT was supposed to respond to highly likely threats, like an active hostage situation.

  3. Tim, you might be looking out your window right now, they might be right out side. Seeing as you photographed their APC, and wrote something negative about the militarization of our police departments, you might be the next exception for SWAT use.

  4. The only legitimate example that comes to mind is the north Hollywood shootout. There they commandeered an armored truck to evac wounded officers.

    In general, I see no legitimate reason for them to get 400,000 dollar MRAP vehicles (like Reading, PA has) when they could just buy used trucks from Brinks, Dunbar, or Loomis.

    • The upside is to the militarization of the police is that you now have a legitimate reason to install a moat around your house.

    • I’m glad you brought up that example. That was my first thought on this post. 99.9% of the time, I don’t give the cops the benefit of the doubt. It frightens me when cops get better tactical equipment: machine guns, tasers, etc. as they have shown a propensity to abuse them. Just search “tasered to death” in google and you’ll see what I mean. But were I do stand with cops is on “passive defensive” technology, e.g. better body armor, bullet resistant patrol car doors, etc. Things that will protected them from harm that can’t be used to harm other people. I’m not so sure about the gun ports, but an armored vehicle that can be used to advance on or provide coverage from an active shooter is something I can justify the police having.

      • Like I said though, I don’t have a fundamental problem with them having an old, well-used truck bought from an armored truck company (like Dunbar, Loomis, or Brinks) to use to SHIELD themselves from harm.

        HOWEVER, I see no reason for them to purchase a BRAND NEW military-grade MRAP at a cost to the taxpayers of over $400,000.

        What legitimate reason do they have to expect to face road-side bombs in the course of their work?

  5. Cover and concealment – when you need it, it’s too late to order it. .308 trumps body armor and a Crown Vic anytime.

    • +1.

      When someone has decided to hole up and start taking pop-shots at the neighborhood a vehicle like this can roll right up to the front door or be used to block windows. FWIW our local SWAT team also has an (unarmored) mini-bus with a similar paint scheme as the city buses for more discrete transportation. If I recall the latter is used more frequently (it has A/C).

    • .308 trumps body armor and a Crown Vic anytime.

      OK – I can see that. Not sure why this one was out for a joy ride (unless it was heading to the car wash)

      • Hypothetically, our pretend shooter with a .308 can also have a .50 armor piercing that will cut through a sherman tank. Once we up-armor the po-po for that, consider a homemade law-rocket. Or hidden ied’s in the front yard. Now pretend that he has 20 or so friends helping out. Why, we’d need to upgrade the SWAT budget to several more million per year for all the new toys they need.

        Sorry, the .308 argument doesn’t hold water. They still don’t need those armored monstrosities.

        • “Sorry, the .308 argument doesn’t hold water. They still don’t need those armored monstrosities.”

          It holds up to an EXTENT.

          As I posted above, there’s a difference between spending 5,000-20,000 dollars (or better yet, receiving one as a donation) on a used truck from an armored transport firm (like Brinks, Dunbar, or Loomis), and buying a purpose-built 400,000 dollar military-grade MRAP.

          There’s a difference between needing used civilian equipment to EVAC wounded officers from an active shooter situation (like happened in the North Hollywood shootout), and wanting a massively expensive brand new piece of military hardware to use to oppress the citizenry.

    • Americans have been shooting rifles at law enforcement since at least 1789 with the Whiskey Rebellion. The APCs are a recent development.

  6. As you may recall “Sons of Guns” refurbished a British Armoured car for the New Orleans PD. It had a water cannon, smoke, teargas and (potentially) grenade launchers and a Browning .30 Cal Machine gun in the turret (with a shortened barrel to avoid shooting the water cannon inadvertently). So, don’t go screwing around with the NOPD.

  7. I think this warrants a QOTD: “Criminals seem to be increasingly ruthless and well-armed. How do we equip our officers to deal effectively with threats to themselves and the public, while not going overboard into full-blown militarization?”

    • Criminals seem to be increasingly ruthless and well-armed.

      They are? How many Bonnie & Clydes have we had running around the countryside with sawed-off BARs lately?

      The North Hollywood debacle over a decade ago is about the only thing that comes to mind, and in that situation it wasn’t an issue of ruthlessness nor armament, but the simple fact that the bad guys were somewhat smarter than average and effectively employed body armor.

      The vast majority of bad guys do their thing with cheap, generally crappy, small caliber handguns. Nothing that even remotely warrants what amounts to an urban tank.

      Cops with 40+ cal handguns? Sure. Cops with rifles and shotguns? No problem. Cops with crew-served and destructive weapons and APCs? Problem.

      • Maybe they should have let the North Hollywood bandits just take the money and leave/isn’t this the fine advice we are given when confronted with bad guys?

  8. Tim, how many St. Louis policemen have you spoken with about what’s it like to patrol North St. Louis? It is, nearly literally, a war zone. I don’t see why our police should not have the kind of protection they need when the AK-47 rounds start flying, slicing through their cruisers like a hot knife through butter.

    • Like I said “Maybe I’m wrong – I will entertain that possibility”

      How often do cops face that kind of fire in North City? The cops who are hurt around here seem to be getting it from pistols, not rifles. Long arms are rarely used by criminals from what I understand. Even the long-looking guns are really just pistol caliber carbines.

      I am totally OK with officer safety – up to a point. Cops are not soldiers, though. If an area has become lawless where the cops need to be replaced by soldiers, it seems to me it would need to be pacified on a short-term basis and quickly returned to normal policing.

      I am deeply uncomfortable with permanent military-style police presence.

    • If it’s literally a “war zone”, might I propose instead of upgrading the SWAT with millions of taxpayer dollars, we approach this holistically. Like, examine why our criminal justice system is failing. Understand why soft judges and politically motivated lawyers game the system against us. Use the death penalty more frequently against the worst offenders, permanently removing them from the “war zone”. Stop harassing the law-abiding with meaningless and petty restrictions while excusing the murderers and rapists. Simply upgrading the cops to fight back isn’t working, obviously.

      • “Use the death penalty more frequently…”

        Of course doing this wouldnt encourage even more people to have shoot outs since they would be executed anyways.

      • Start dropping bombs from helicopters, worked for Philly PD back in the 80’s. Then they’ll know who’s boss.

    • Pretty much anything will ‘slice through a cruiser like a hot knife through butter”:

      And since there always gonna be more officers in cruisers than there are in the SWAT tank, seems like it would make more sense to spread it around than spending all the cash in one concentrated spot.

      Or we could just de-criminalize voluntary transactions between consenting adults, and the vast majority of crimes that cops are currently combatting (and the funds for those ‘AK-47s’) would dry up on their own.

    • If it’s a war-zone, then perhaps it would be appropriate for the mayor to petition the Governor to mobilize the National Guard to help restore order…

  9. Rev, with all due respect to a man of religion, comparing any domestic situation to a war zone is problematic. aside from having armed bad guys, there is little comparison. btw i live in an “urban” county, and have swat teams that are known to abuse the public trust, and shoot any dogs they see.

  10. This reminds me of a local raid we had last month. The police showed up to serve a search warrant with the following personnel and equipment: local police, local sheriff, neighboring town police, ATF, neighboring county SWAT, and Oregon National guard. The national guard troops showed up in two light armored vehicles.

    The reason for this overwhelming show of force for a meth bust? Last summer, someone at the house was shot in the leg.

    Military assault on meth dealers

    You be the judge…

  11. Folks bitching about police being militarized is a goofy stance if you ask me. They equip, dress and act like Barney Fighf and everyone calls them local-yocals. Then they get their asses handed to them and are unable to do much more than look on in terror as a nut-job goes berzerk with a gun and then everyone calls for them to step up their game……then they do…and her comes the crowds saying ” Hey…why are they trying to be like the military?!”

    I say give then all the best equipment they need to get the job done. And stop bitching like a goofball. The vast majority of police are 100% pro-2A and should not be armed , trained or equipped like mall security.

    Times are changing/have long since changed and police need to change with them.

    • I wouldn’t be so concerned about the “militarization” of police forces if our legislature (and a lot of voters apparently) weren’t so comfortable sacrificing liberty and privacy in the name of ‘security’. I also wouldn’t be so concerned if SWAT teams weren’t treated like they’re ‘above the law’.

      Police respond slowly (relatively) but the National Guard and military respond even slower. I’m ok with LE having the tools to deal with military level threats i.e. organized, motivated, and equipped terrorists/narco lords/full blown foreign forces. The problem, for me, arises when they aren’t kept under control. When they operate with nigh impunity. Kicking down the wrong door? Killing household pets? Killing residents who respond to their door being kicked down at 2am with a shotgun?
      And not facing any consequences? THESE THINGS ARE NOT OK!

      Having trained attack/guard dogs is fine and dandy. But when your dogs start biting your roomates and eating their shoes, you can’t just dismiss their concerns as ‘the cost of security’.

    • We already have a national guard in all states, send them in to fight a battle and the cops can do what they do best, document the situation, arrest the perps that survive, etc.

  12. “I believe in law and order, and the man with a badge is more than just a man.”

    No, he’s not. And it’s that attitude which has allowed the city police forces in this country to become the omnipotent, militarized, jackbooted thugs that they are today.

    • A police officer is much more than a man. Most certainly he/she is. They are symbols of peace and justice. A sign of everything that is right about this country. They risk their lives every day they go into work, so that society can live in relative peace and security, work, raise a family…whatever you want to do with your American dream, it all happens under the veil of security and protection provided by police. If they did not exist , we can only imagine what our world would be like.

      Oversight of the police is important to make sure they don’t become what we do not want them to become. But if you start out with the notion that all police, or even the concept of police, are bad, then you have no credibility in your argument.

      • Oh God, not this again.

        The homeless, merchants, the President, my garbage man, a plumber, you, me, Navy SEALs, Congressmen, attorneys, LEOs, the crazy cat lady in the neighborhood… they are all just people.

        Some of these people have important jobs. Some of these jobs are more important than others, Some of these jobs have a larger impact on society than others. NONE of these people are more than just people.

          • “this” being the argument about wether or not LEOs are somehow “…more equal than others.”

          • “So we should all hate the police then?”

            I don’t believe I said that. Not even remotely. I’m pretty sure what I said is that, by virtue of being LE alone, the police aren’t any better or worse than anyone else. So they shouldn’t be treated and better OR worse than anyone else.

            Did you catch that? Not any better or worse means they shouldn’t be treated any better or worse.

            • If you want to blow every cop that crosses your path, then that’s up to you.

              I choose not to hold members of the Enforcer Caste in such high regard. I see them strictly as goons – hired muscle used to enforce the wills and edicts of the Political Caste on the rest of us.

              (Oops – this was supposed to be a reply to Rydek’s last post.)

      • Rydalk, the assertion that a LEO’s are infallible is patently untrue,

        “then you have no credibility in your argument.”

        i would say quite the opposite.

      • Risk their lives everyday? I don’t think so. Police officer does NOT make the top ten list of most dangerous jobs, so get over yourself already.

  13. “I believe in law and order, and the man with a badge is more than just a man. He or she is an officer of the court and a representative of the rule of law.”

    He’s a fellow citizen with different duties. Nothing more and nothing less.

  14. WHAT else are they going to waste millions of post 9/11 homeland security $ on? Can anyone say NATIONAL DEBT?

    • They have to waste that money. The government has to take up the slack in consumption when consumers cant or wont. Otherwise the velocity of money drops too low and the whole debt based system falls apart. And it creates immediate jobs politicans can use to get supports, at the expense of the future, but thats someone elses problem.

    • What does an armored SWAT truck bring to the party a good size step van doesn’t?

      Jimmy Dean Pure Government Pork Sausage.

  15. the man with a badge is more than just a man

    Many of them are quite a bit less. Unless you think that cops have inalienable rights to steal, rape, murder, deal illegal weapons, and shoot the f^cking dog.

    • Aww…heck,
      we just had a Deputy who was Commander of the Jail beat the heck out of his Wife and was on drugs when he did it! They gave the guy a slap on the wrist and let him go!

      • Just had one around my neck of the woods that was convicted of getting a bj from a boy in exchange for letting him go on some bs charge, and was given probation. Unsupervised fuggin’ probation. It’s just sad, that is all you can really say about it.

  16. I am generally VERY against the militarization of the police. I think we need far fewer SWAT teams and they need to serve far fewer no-knock warrants. The teams we do have should be full time, and very very competent.

    The issue of a PD having an armored vehicle is a different matter though; they have their place and I think larger cities should have one. They provide a way for police to get close to barricaded and armed suspects to do a number of thins.

    Here in Portland about a year ago, the PPB sent two officers on a very routine welfare check in a nice part of the (now defunct) SE precinct. They knocked on the door and the man inside answered with a few shots from his hunting rifle. One cop injured, the other drug him to cover. Other officers responded immediately and got pinned down approaching the house; one was shot in the gut. Officers on scene were able to extract the gut-shot officer by using covering fire from an AR on the house, but they couldn’t recover the other 9 pinned down officers that way.

    The SWAT team used their Bearcat armored vehicle to approach the house and pick up the officers behind cover. They than used it to approach the house and establish open lines of communication. In my book, it was a totally valid use of such a vehicle, and the PPB has used it in a similar fashion about 2-3 times a year.

    • If departments want such a vehicle for safe extractions, that’s fine. No complaints here. But we all can see that time after time the big toys are being abused.

      • Watch the show Detroit SWAT on Hulu. They have a big ass battering ram on their APC. In a few episodes they end up essentially demolishing houses with it, because they cant figure out how to breech a door or window.

  17. I served in a usmc plt that had 2 of the very vehicle pictured above. It is a LENCO BEAR it is NOT an MRAP an RPG WILL Defeat it. It will stop some types of .50 BMG rounds it is not designed for off road use or to protect against mines or IED’s. They were navy vehicles that we signed out from the joint motor pool. I was a driver our plt was a CQB unit (RTT) these vehicles can be used as mobile cover up to a structure. Or as a battering ram to force entry

  18. Dad got to drive and play with an M8 Greyhound Armored Car with a 37mm anti tank gun in WWII. Great toy for the cops.
    Instead of special armoured cars, just give them an up armoured Humvee.
    Actually our hick town of Osgood ( pop 1450) has a Humvee rescue vehicle.
    I am still really trying to figure out what value that adds to the community.
    I think it is a pork product.

    • MummyBarrow shhhh but don’t tell anybody February’s book club is going to be Gone Girl. It is epic. I have never done a book in the book club that I have read aldraey but I have to share this one next month. Will have you gripped.

  19. It’s not the vehicles, nor the weapons, nor the attire and other gear that SWAT (and its acronym friends) uses that is the problem. It’s their misapplied tactics used in relatively minor situations. Certainly there are incidents that require the full application of everything that is available to officers in order to protect themselves, but it should not be the default response.

  20. An armored car is at least justifiable in a major city — but how about small towns? Keene NH (pop. 23,000) got almost $300,000 from Homeland Security to buy “Our own TANK!” (aka, a Bearcat) Here’s the Bearcat promo:

    More here:

    I doubt this is the only small town to get an armored vehicle… there just happens to be an especially vocal group of “agorists” in Keene to make a stink about it.

  21. I just wanted to point out that gun ports….. are useless. Take, literally 5 seconds and look where the port is in relation to the windows. How the hell are you ever going to be able to shoot accurately? Especially to the SWAT standard (not that I think their standards are that good anyway). It is likely that SWAT would be using the well adopted AR platform, so, with that in mind, think about what type of optics they would use. Triijicon? Eotech? Aimpoint? All of these are going to ride at very minimum of 1 inch high on the rail. Do you really think, your going to be able to acquire good sight picture/sight alignment through that whole? Nope! What is going to happen is when they look through their optic they are going to see the inside of their truck! because they wont be able to see through the optic, through the port. So what will they do? Kentucky wind it up!! Lets look through the window and just GUESS where are rounds are impacting…. waste of money.

    • The gun ports I’m fine with. You can always throw your soiled shorts out of them when the bullets start flying. What I take particular exception with is the ride handles. Isn’t the point in spending my tax money to be protected from injury INSIDE the dern thing? Doesn’t it defeat the purpose? Sorry everyone… I guess I’m just missing something but it would seem to me that if you really needed this thing then you wouldn’t be getting out of it in the first place and if you want quick deployment then just have Jr and Sr butcher up some mad Max style trikes and put the APC in the garage.

  22. I consider armored cars for the police to be like condoms. They make the police feel indestructible, or as if they can enter any situation… but even with the world’s best condom would you still want to sleep with someone that had a disease that would kill you dead that same day? Correction, would any reasonable person do that?

    Why put yourself right in the line of fire if not necessary? Before you say it… NO, IT’s NOT NECESSARY to break down a dealers door in the wee hours of the morning and even if it were what good does that APC do you parked on the street? Get the guy when he walks out his door for his morning constitutional… he’ll never see it coming. And for those that say, what about the active shooter scenario… do you really think that this lumbering paycheck maker deployed an hour after the fact is going to make a difference to someone that has already started shooting? Unless you hit them with it that is. I guess in a mumbai style assault it gives you somewhere to cower (or was that cover?) while your sniper takes up a position… but then that’s probably putting yourself in harms way for nothing again.

  23. Everyone in here but the pastor is completely ignorant. Why the armored vehicles…are you serious? Why the gun ports….really? It’s obvious that not one of you has ever been on those streets, seen what cops are up against, or have even remotely been involved in any type of public service profession. The only reason the North Hollywood Shootout is the only instance the “comes to mind” for you people is that you haven’t pulled your heads out of your monitor-shaped holes in the ground and taken a good look at what the media is NOT reporting. Do that, then we’ll talk. This world is a deadly place, in some places it IS a war-zone, but those of you who have nothing better to do than post out-of-context pictures with uneducated remarks about those fighting that war on a daily basis from your plush recliners and sipping fruity drinks truly have no idea what it takes to keep your cozy homes free from would-be invaders. You think law enforcement in trampling your civil rights? Imagine if they ALL took a day off, where would you be then? Thing is, they won’t…EVER. That’s because, unlike you, they know what lurks in the night because they’ve seen it’s ugly face every day. And, unlike you, they have prepared themselves for it. Yes, LEO’s are soldiers, just fighting a different kind of war that traditional armed service members. The war for YOUR safety. You are afforded the opportunity to say the things you do about them because of traditional soldiers, but the opportunity to CONTINUE to say those things is brought to you solely by the sacrifice of law enforcement officers. That is all, and you’re welcome.

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