Jefferson County sheriff candidates say department’s armored truck to be used only in “extreme” circumstances

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department’s new MRAP after a paint job last fall. The protests in Ferguson, Mo., have prompted debate on the use of police force. Amanda Morrison / NNY Business

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department’s new MRAP after a paint job last fall. The protests in Ferguson, Mo., have prompted debate on the use of police force. Amanda Morrison / NNY Business

What do Watertown, N.Y.; Watertown, Conn., and Watertown, Wis., have in common?

Law enforcement agencies in or near all three cities have large armored vehicles given to them by the same federal government program receiving renewed attention as an indirect result of protests over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Law enforcement officials in that city, which has a population of roughly 21,000, have been criticized for using military-style equipment and tactics to dispel the protestors, a strategy some observers have said has only exacerbated the situation.

Last September, Jefferson County acquired a $600,000, 21-ton, 2008 International MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle through the 1033 program, which authorizes the transfer of excess Department of Defense property to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies for use in counter-drug and counterterrorism activities.

The vehicle was the subject of some controversy in the weeks following the news that it had been acquired, with some Jefferson County legislators calling it “excessive.” [Read more…]