The sleepy town of Salinas is located in Northern California's wine country where the crime stats are very low.
The most common crime in the town, according to the Salinas Police Department website, is theft. There's no mention of terrorist activities, but the police department has acquired a 37,000-pound US military armored truck built to survive minefield explosions.
Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin was recently asked about the militarization of the police department in a town of 150,000.
“I knew this was going to come up,” Chief McMillin told TheCalifornian.com. “It’s the militarization-of-the-police issue. People are like, ‘Why do you need this?’”
Chief McMillin claimed that the town's SWAT vehicle can be pierced by .40-caliber bullets from Glock handguns.
“The most common crime gun on the street is a .40 Glock,” added Chief McMillin. “A Glock .40 will penetrate that vehicle. It’s certainly not going to stop a rifle.”
He claimed that his police department was unsuccessful in getting grants to purchase a $250,000 to $300,000 LENCO Bearcat truck, which is normally used by police.
But the police department was accepted into the U.S. government’s 1033 Program, which recycles used US military equipment for local police departments. That's how the Salinas Police Department was able to acquire the MRAP (mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle).
“This thing doesn’t have any offensive capacity, there are no weapons mounted to it,” stated Chief McMillin. “The only weapons are the ones we already bring with us on SWAT scenes.”
“It’s easy to throw out that ‘militarization of the police’ line,” he claimed. “But what is militarization of the police? Is that equipment or is it tactics?”
Actually, it's both according to the ACLU, which recalls several deadly incidents this year when military machinery was combined with overly-aggressive policing.
Reuters reports that tiny towns across America are equipping themselves with equipment used by the US military:
Police departments in Boise and Nampa, Idaho, each acquired an MRAP, as did the force in High Springs, Florida. The offer of war-ready machinery, at practically no cost, has proven hard to resist for local police departments. Increasingly, they are looking like soldiers equipped for battle... In addition to the frightening presence of paramilitary weapons in American towns, the program has led to rampant fraud and abuse.
Sources: Reuters, ACLU, TheCalifornian.com, SalinasPD.com