Oklahoma is a world away from Cambodia or Angola, but at least 20 police departments in the state have purchased mine-resistant vehicles in the past year.
A federal database shows counties as small as Payne, population about 80,000, and Beckham, population about 20,000, purchased the military vehicles for a fraction of their original price tags.
Brady Henderson, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said there may be occasional appropriate uses for these vehicles, but the military equipment creates divisions between police and citizens and is often an unnecessary distraction for real police work.
“It creates an expectation of escalating violence and pits the police and citizens as enemies and adversaries,” he said. “And I can’t help think that some of the departments get them because they are a very, very cool toy.”
But Payne County Sheriff’s Capt. Kevin Woodward said the county purchased the $1.3 million vehicle for about $1,500 after two officers were shot during a standoff a couple years ago.
“We’re not worried about mines, but we’re worried about people shooting at us,” he said.
Along with the mine-resistant vehicles, the database shows Oklahoma departments large and small buying helicopters, high-powered rifles, bayonets, night-vision gear and even televisions from military surplus.