PPD vehicle provides new defenses

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PENDLETON — There’s a new Pendleton Police Department vehicle in town, and it’s one that will be hard to miss when it rolls through downtown Pendleton during festival parades.

It’s a military Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicle, or an MRAP.

The hulking vehicle weighs 36,000 pounds and is essentially a truck reinforced with armor, police chief Marc Farrer said.

He said the town obtained the vehicle — which has an original price tag of $658,000 — for free, paying only the shipping cost of $4,500.

He said such a vehicle has its detractors, those who “think it’s a little bit of an overkill” and decry the militarization of police, he said. “But they’ve never been shot at.”

Those rare instances would be “volatile situations,” in which law enforcement officers could be protected by its use.

Farrer said the vehicle likely will appear at town events, such as parades and public safety days.

The department addressed the new acquisition on its Facebook page.

“As some Pendleton Residents may have seen, the Police Department recently received new equipment. This vehicle, called an MRAP, was awarded to PPD through the Military Surplus program.

“Our department has signed assistance contracts with all agencies within Madison County, the Indiana Department of Corrections and Homeland Security District 6. The safety factor that a vehicle like this affords first responders is awesome.

“I have always believed that it is unwise to hope for the best without preparing for the worse. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to visit the PD.”

The response there has been mostly positive, Farrer said.

And the comments to the town’s Facebook post reflect that.

“It is sad to say, but we are very fortunate for the Town of Pendleton to have this equipment,” wrote Todd Harmeson. “Let’s hope it is never used, but better to have than not have and need. Thank you, Chief Farrer.”

“I really hope you would never have use it for its real purpose,” wrote Doug Girt. “Better to be prepared though.”

Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger said he thinks having such vehicles on hand for use in certain cases is a good thing, especially since they otherwise aren’t being used.

He said he sees it as a way to protect law enforcement when it is dealing with heavily armed people and situations where explosives may be involved.

It can serve “to get a handful of officers close enough where they can take appropriate action,” he said.

He said the sheriff’s department acquired a similar but smaller armored vehicle about 12 years ago, and it’s been an asset.

“We only use it for SWAT Team call-outs,” and not every one of those, he said. “We have actually put it into service twice in the past two years.”

And on those occasions, the vehicle was on standby and not actually used.

“It’s one of those things that when you do need it, it’s actually worth a million dollars to you,” Mellinger said.

Farrer said the vehicle will be maintained at the police department, and officers will receive special training on its use.