CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — During a national debate about law enforcement, a police department in a tiny West Virginia city has unveiled a gift from the federal government: a massive mine-resistant vehicle.
The Moundsville Police Department debuted the 2019 Cougar Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle to local media Thursday, with the police chief saying it could be used for hostage situations in the city of around 8,000 people in the state’s northern panhandle.
“We could use it for various things,” Police Chief Tom Mitchell told The Intelligencer newspaper, calling it a “tactical resource vehicle.” He did not immediately respond to a message left at his office by The Associated Press on Friday.
The vehicle was given to the department at no cost to the city through a federal program, Mitchell told the paper. It was first purchased for the U.S. Marines, which says the vehicles were designed during the U.S. war in Iraq.
“The vehicles’ V-shaped hull, high ground clearance and high hardened armor make them uniquely qualified for high IED threat operations,” according to a description on the Marine Corps’ website.
Mitchell told the paper the anti-mine vehicle had to be "demilitarized" before the local police department could use it, though it was unclear what that meant. He also noted it could stop a .50-caliber bullet.
A short video clip posted online of the vehicle rolling out of a garage drew swift criticism from many who noted the country is locked in a debate about police brutality, and the militarization of law enforcement amid calls to defund police departments.
"This 'free' donation of military equipment to law enforcement in towns around the U.S. must end," wrote Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Roughly one in five people in Moundsville live in poverty, according to census data.