Ethiraj: Story County takes police safety to new extremes

Raghul Ethiraj

In a calm and beautiful county in Iowa where more than 37 percent of people are students and more than 15,000 are under the age of 18, a mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, known as a MRAP, was delivered on March 25.

This 11-foot-tall beast, weighing more than 49,000 pounds and valued at more than $700,000, was delivered free of cost to the Story County sheriff’s office. These are procured under a Department of Defense program that equips local police departments with military-grade weapons that were once used in Afghanistan and Iraq to fight terrorists.  

Story County, which encompasses Iowa State and more than 33,000 of its students, is now protected by an armored military fighting vehicle that is designed to withstand improvised explosive devices and land mines.


As Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald said, “We should be protected from anything that would be thrown against [MRAPs].” In this case, that would mean land mines and roadside bombs. “It has armored plating all around it,” he added.

Story County is not the only one to protect its residents against roadside bombs and land mines in Iowa. Mason City, Storm Lake, Jasper County, Scott County, Washington County and Johnson County all follow suit in finding reasons to get their hands on one of these free “toys” for their “boys.”

Unfortunately, local officials with Story County had to pool roughly $5,000 to ship their MRAP from Texas to Nevada.

I only hope that they buy their next MRAP from Amazon and be eligible for free two day shipping with their Prime membership.

But seriously, why would we need such armored vehicles in our area when Ames is voted one of the safest place to live, with just 132 violent crimes per 100,000 people for all of 2012?

It is hard to understand what makes Washington, Iowa, with a population of roughly 7,000, a crime capital that warrants local police to equip and protect its officers with MRAPs.

It is not just Iowa which some jokingly call the “middle of nowhere” that is facing this problem. Local departments all across the United States are increasing the militarization of their arsenal with weapons to prepare themselves against a worst case scenario that has never happened in their area.

The Story County sheriff’s reasoning behind getting an MRAP is that “we’ve seen schools, churches, and businesses where an active shooter goes in” and “we have a situation where we need something like this.”

But the last time we had a situation with a shooter on campus was when Officer Adam McPherson shot seven times at Tyler Comstock, 19, on Central Campus, killing him.

I am sure we all can get to see this military vehicle in action very soon because Fitzgerald, our sheriff,  wants to use this in a situation that is an active search warrant or simply use it as a shield and protection for officers.

Yes, this MRAP might help officers be safe while doing their jobs — especially when students in Ames are posing serious threats while “armed” with hard-bound calculus books or an X-Acto knife from their design projects.

I only hope that we don’t go all SWAT over a stolen credit card and hurt someone in the future just because the cops have a new “tool in their toolbox.”