As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the Pentagon is finding itself with thousands more armored vehicles than it needs. Many are now being given to police departments across the country, and it's sparking a growing debate about whether police forces are becoming too militarized.

The vehicles include MRAPs, mine-resistant ambush protected trucks, that were designed to withstand roadside bombs planted by insurgents.

Jonathan Serrie reported on the story this morning on America's Newsroom. He traveled to Florence County, S.C., where Sheriff John Crouse acquired one free of charge.

Crouse explained that officers can shelter in one of the vehicles if a "situation goes bad" and they're helpful to officers who are serving "high-risk warrants."

A lot of those weapons, uniforms, trucks and mine-resistant vehicles are patrolling the streets of central Indiana at virtually no cost to local law enforcement agencies.

“It saves a substantial amount of money,” said Steve Harless, deputy commissioner of the Indiana Department of Administration. “Last year alone we saved approximately $14 million and this year we’re on pace to save a little over $13 million.”

That’s millions of tax dollars saved by 326 Indiana sheriffs and police chiefs who otherwise could not afford the gear they say they need to protect the public from increasingly heavily armored criminals.

The Defense Department views it as a win-win situation, but critics are sounding alarms that these transfers blur the lines between cops and soldiers, questioning why police units need military equipment. Tim Lynch of the CATO Institute argues there is a risk for "unnecessary confrontations and injuries" when police missions become "confused" with military operations.

While citizens in other parts of the country have voiced concerns about this issue, Crouse said he hasn't received any objections so far.


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