Police in Salt Lake County say new armored vehicle will help keep responders and civilians safe

Posted at 10:11 PM, Sep 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-21 09:56:40-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah -- From the battle zones of Iraq and Afghanistan comes Salt Lake County's newest crime fighting vehicle, and law enforcement says it will help keep first responders and citizens safe.

The Unified Police Department now has a mine-resistant, ambush protection vehicle, or MRAP.

It was built to keep U.S. service men and women out of harm's way in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. While militarization of police departments has come under fire recently, Sheriff Jim Winder says that's not the case with the MRAP.

"The one we have behind you, as you can see is, I think, about as far from militarized as one can get," Winder said.

The MRAP has no weapons and is for protection, Winder says. The Unified Fire Department partners with UPD, and the vehicle comes equipped with advanced life support systems.

The vehicle can withstand fire from almost any armament, and while some would say that's overkill for a local police force, Winder said it’s a matter of practicality.

“I think people should be aware that in the Salt Lake Valley there are hundreds, if not thousands, of 50-caliber rifles in the possession of civilians," Winder said.

With the proper permit, these big guns are legal to own. But, in the wrong hands, their rounds could penetrate any armored vehicle in any police force.

But not the MRAP.

"This vehicle is completely impervious to that particular round, along with other high explosives,” Winder said.

Last month, a man shot two women and was firing shots at officers and SWAT teams. A team had to remove one of the victims from harm’s way, which is where the MRAP comes in.

"This vehicle was positioned nearby and had medical personnel in it the entire time and kept them very safe, so that's exactly what it's used for: keeping medical personnel as close as possible, not being injured, and then also to recover civilians," Winder said.

The vehicle was provided by the Department of Defense at no cost, as it was already paid for with federal tax dollars. The county paid about $4,000 to have the vehicle transported to the area and to have it repainted. They also installed some lights.

"The sticker price off the lot is about a million bucks,” Winder said of the cost of buying an MRAP outright.

So far, 22 officers have been trained to drive the MRAP. UPD plans to purchase another MRAP, so two can be stationed around Salt Lake County. Winder said the vehicles will be available to any area-agency that needs them.