(The Center Square) – The Pullman Police Department announced last week that it recently obtained a free, military surplus armored vehicle that will be primarily assigned to the Whitman County SWAT unit.
The MaxxPro MRAP is described as an “urban rescue vehicle” built to withstand ballistic arms fire and “emerging threats,” according to the police department.
It will be deployed in high-risk situations such as barricaded subjects, active shooter incidents, drone operations, serving arrest warrants on potentially dangerous individuals, and hostage rescues.
“In general, this is anticipated to be the primary vehicle deployed in any situation where gunfire is possible, and to provide time and distance shielding for de-escalation efforts,” police said in a post on the department’s website. “The URV will also be available as a resource for nearby agencies, providing additional support for area incidents as needed.”
While such incidents are uncommon in Whitman County, they have occurred. Last December, a campus police officer for Washington State University in Pullman fatally shot a man who barricaded himself in an apartment after threatening to kill roommates during an overnight standoff.
In addition, police said the region’s rural setting, unpredictable weather, limited resources, and university campuses increase the need for “reliable and accessible public safety tools. An armored vehicle capable of navigating versatile terrains and environments is invaluable in responding to emergency incidents on the Palouse.”
In online comments, some individuals questioned the need for such a vehicle and worried that it was an example of “militarizing” the police. Others defended the acquisition, saying it could provide additional protection and safety to officers if needed.
City officials did not respond directly to comments except to post a statement saying, “The Pullman Police Department is proud to improve public safety response through the deployment of an urban rescue vehicle.”
Built to protect against gunfire and explosions, International MaxxPro MRAP tactical vehicles are designed by Navistar Defense, a subsidiary of American-based Navistar International, with the armor manufactured by Plasan Sasa of Israel. Average unit cost is upward of $400,000 to nearly $1.35 million for a new unit with a performance package.
Pullman reportedly acquired its surplus vehicle at no cost through the Washington State Department of Enterprise Service’s Law Enforcement Support Office program, which allows transfer of excess U.S. Department of Defense property to state and local law enforcement agencies. Surplus items can include clothing, office supplies, tools, rescue equipment, vehicles, and small arms. Of the available excess equipment, only 5% are weapons and less than 1% are tactical vehicles, according to DES.