In a pole barn in Franklin, sharing space with a motorcycle and a boat, sat an imposing military vehicle designed for battlefields in Iraq or Afghanistan, not the streets of Johnson County.
It is an MRAP — a bulletproof, 60,000-pound, six-wheeled behemoth with heavy armor, a gunner's turret and the word "SHERIFF" emblazoned on its flank — a vehicle whose acronym stands for "mine resistant, ambush protected."
"We don't have a lot of mines in Johnson County," confessed sheriff Doug Cox, who acquired the vehicle. "My job is to make sure my employees go home safe."
Johnson County is one of eight Indiana law enforcement agencies to acquire MRAPs from military surplus since 2010, according to public records obtained by The Indianapolis Star. The vehicles are among a broad array of 4,400 items — everything from coats to computers to high-powered rifles — acquired by police and sheriff departments across the state.
Law enforcement officials, especially those from agencies with small budgets, say they're turning to military surplus equipment to take advantage of bargains and protect police officers. The MRAP has an added benefit, said Pulaski County Sheriff Michael Gayer, whose department also acquired one: "It's a lot more intimidating than a Dodge."
Even in Pulaski County, population 13,124, a more military approach to law enforcement is needed these days, Gayer suggested.