Banning, Calif. - Weighing 18 tons, protected by armor, with a gun turret on top, it is a military vehicle built to withstand roadside bombs in overseas combat.
When they retire from war, many mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAP's, are taking to city streets with local police departments.
In Banning, city leaders say they never approved the MRAP that someone in the police department drove back from Fort Bliss, Texas. An internal investigation has been launched into how it was obtained by the police department.
"We had acquired, not through the proper channels, the MRAP," Banning City Manager Andy Takata said. "Currently, we're doing an investigation on it."
Banning Patch obtained photos of a convoy of four MRAP's from the city of Banning through a public records request. http://banning-beaumont.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/update-councilman-blasts-police-acquisition-of-mrap-vehicle-city-manager-not-happy
Patch reports the other three MRAPS went to Redlands, West Covina, and Gardena, California. They were all obtained from Fort Bliss, Texas.
On the drive west from the military base, the Banning MRAP had a blowout and crashed into a truck on Interstate 10 near Phoenix. No one was seriously hurt, but Banning has paid more than $40 thousand dollars in damages.
"There was an accident on the way when they were bringing it back," Takata said. "I believe we've settled almost with everyone."
We went to the police station to ask about the MRAP and the crash, and were told that acting commander Lieutenant Phil Holder was the only person who could speak on it. He did not respond to phone messages and e-mail.
Some say the MRAP will make the city safer. Other's say, it's just too much.
"I can't think of any reason why the city would have that kind of truck," George Caldo said. "It's like you're going to war."
The city has not taken a position on whether or not to retrofit the vehicle for street use with the police department, a process which could cost in excess of $100 thousand dollars. It is currently sitting unused in a storage yard.
"We haven't gone to council with it. So we do need to go to council," Takata said. "But we're going to wait until after the investigation is over."
"There's many cities that actually have it, and there's a waiting list for them, too."
The Associated Press reports 165 MRAP's have been given out since they were made available this summer. Military officials tell the AP that police have requests for more than 700 MRAP trucks, but that none are available.
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