The Ohio State University Department of Public Safety has acquired an armored military vehicle that looks like it belongs in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Gary Lewis, a senior director of media relations at OSU, told The Daily Caller via email that the “unique, special-purpose vehicle is a replacement” for the “police fleet.” He called the armored jalopy “an all-hazard, all-purpose, public safety-response vehicle” with “obviously enhanced capabilities.”
Lewis did not specify exactly what previous mode of transport was replaced.
He noted that the vehicle was “acquired at no cost from Military Surplus.” He also bragged that it has “extremely low miles and is in nearly new condition” but elaborated no further concerning the acquisition.
“We are in the process of making it usable for our needs in an urban campus environment,” Lewis explained. “Specifically we are removing the top turret and repainting.”
Lewis also noted that OSU’s campus cops are “the first agency in the state to acquire such a vehicle”—presumably ahead of less vital departments such as the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. He did not provide the make and model of the vehicle despite TheDC’s specific request.
The vehicle looks like an MRAP, which is the general name for an armored fighting vehicle designed to survive ambushes and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. Lewis mentioned nothing about IEDs or ambushes in his email to TheDC. Instead, the school envisions a number of uses for the vehicle including “officer rescue,” “hostage scenarios,” “bomb evaluation” and active killers loose on campus.
The vehicle also boasts a “sniper perch” and it is ideal “for crew protection under threat of explosives and small arms fire.”
“Disaster deployment” is another possible use because the vehicle can function under all kinds of extreme weather conditions including blizzards and floods up to 36 inches. The “multi-purpose” onboard winch is also a plus.
Several attempts to extract information from the OSU Police Division proved fruitless. No one who will presumably be using the vehicle wanted to answer questions about it, nor would anyone say if any of these scenarios has actually occurred on campus in recent (or non-recent) years.
Gary Daniels, an associate director for the ACLU in Ohio, praised the school for acquiring the vehicle at no cost but suggested that some of the proposed uses either seem a bit farfetched or don’t necessarily require a military vehicle.
“When you look at some of these situations, it’s a one-in-a-million kind of thing,” he told TheDC.
The ACLU has cautioned against the general militarization of American police forces. Cops, the watchdog group says, should not use military means to do their jobs if it can be avoided. Also, the civil rights organization notes, the incentive to use military hardware is always strong.
“What we find with this type of equipment and technology is that organizations have to justify obtaining it,” Daniels said. “It’s not the kind of thing that should be rolling up for any old purpose. But this is what we see with these types of things.”
A spokeswoman for Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, Barbara Peck, told TheDC she did not find the vehicle objectionable.