February 27, 2024

Sheriff’s office clarifies intent of its new military vehicle

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Some concerns arose last Tuesday when Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty announced his office would be acquiring a new 25 tons Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle from the military.

Halferty said the vehicle was “an armored tactical and rescue vehicle” and said it would be a great “tool” if they ever needed it. However, concerns arose from citizens about the purpose of the vehicle and at what times would the sheriff’s office need to use it.

In an interview Thursday, Halferty’s chief deputy, Duane Rozendaal, clarified what the department will use it for and made it clear that they were not looking to militarize.

“Under no circumstances are we looking at this to militarize our law enforcement in this county,” Rozendaal said. “It is a vehicle that is going to be an emergency response vehicle, whatever emergency response comes up.”

Both Halferty and Rozendaal said the vehicle’s primary usage would be for emergency situations, such as natural disasters or extreme rescue missions. Rozendaal did clarify the vehicle could also be used for tactical operations, but only if necessary.

“Will we use it as a tactical type vehicle? Absolutely, but our tactical is only in response in the regards to violations or laws that have been broken into the county,” Rozendaal said. “Nothing to do with militarizing our sheriff’s office or any other agency in this county.”

He also gave some specific situations where they could use the vehicle to help.

“I would only imagine using it during disasters such as flood situations and tornados,” Rozendaal said. “It depends on how we advance the vehicle too. We could utilize as a command vehicle, so we can use it in critical situations where we need a (mobile) command center.”

Deputy Mike Gunsaulus said the county received the MRAP vehicle from the 1033 Program. The program allows law enforcement agencies to receive military surplus at no charge and on a first come, first served basis, from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Gunsaulus said the county applied for the MRAP in February and had its request approved after another agency backed out at the last second. Thursday, it arrived in the sally port of the Jasper County Law Enforcement Center.

The MRAP won’t be used in the field until after personal are trained on how to use it, and Rozendaal estimated training would take between 30 and 60 days and that the office would draft a plan for its use. He also said the vehicle is in top shape and foresees no other expenses other than routine maintenance, such as oil changes.

“Obviously, our goal is to provide a service to the citizens of the county,” Rozendaal said. “This is an opportunity to utilize military vehicles to provide a service, that’s all there is to it.”

Senior staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.