Sheriff says Public Opinion won’t Decide MRAP Debate


Justin King | The Anti-Media

After The Anti-Media’s article was published on Walton County, Florida’s acquisition of an MRAP armored vehicle, debate has raged across the sparsely-populated county. Sheriff Mike Adkinson has made the debate irrelevant by stating that public opinion will not sway his decision in matters of deputy safety. He did not publicly address the fact that many of those who oppose the MRAP are concerned with an escalation in violence resulting in injuries to deputies.

The disregard for the public’s wishes in this case should be noted heavily. When the Sheriff decides that deputy safety calls for no-knock warrants and flash-bangs on citizens suspected of minor crimes, are the opinions of Walton County’s residents void then as well? This isn’t conspiracy theory. This is the road the Walton County Sheriff’s Office is currently on.

The biggest misconception is that Walton County deputies are being shot at and killed off at some unimaginable rate. The incident of officer death by gunfire in Walton County certainly does differ from the national average, but it isn’t higher. The last time a Walton County deputy was shot and killed was over 70 years ago. Only those that can remember where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, stand a chance of remembering the incident.

Walton County lawmen do occasionally have to deal with roadblock situations, but rather than simply allowing the Sheriff to pull an isolated incident from years ago, citizens could review one of the more recent roadblocks to occur in the county. In the county seat, cops rapidly and professionally conducted a roadblock saving hundreds if not thousands of lives. The officers successfully protected the community from stingers, but they weren’t the infamous stinger missiles sought after by insurgents in Iraq; and unfortunately for the embattled Sheriff, none of those saved were registered to vote in Walton County. They were migrating honey bees that the environmentally-conscious Defuniak Springs Police protected as they swarmed on a public road. The cops held traffic until a beekeeper could come rescue the creatures that have been dying at alarming rates. This is the type of community-oriented action residents expect from Walton County law enforcement officers.

US Congressional Candidate Mark Wichern, who lives in Walton County, commented about the Sheriff’s new toy saying

“I am very suspect and have a very uneasy feeling about the military vehicles being purchased, especially in a county like ours.”

Supporters of the Sheriff point to his pledge not to confiscate weapons from the public even if ordered to as proof of his good intentions. Sheriff Adkinson should certainly be applauded for standing up for the rights of residents; however Sheriff Adkinson will not take the MRAP with him when he leaves office. It will remain a weapon in the county’s arsenal. As is typically the case in local southern politics, supporters of the Sheriff’s plan really don’t care about the issue, but are instead focusing on the fact that they know Adkinson is a “good guy.” Sheriff Adkinson’s character is not part of the debate. To simultaneously worry about gun confiscation, but support the militarization of a hometown law enforcement agency displays a level of cognitive dissonance that might require serious psychological treatment.

The debate is centered on finding out exactly how the Sheriff plans to deploy the MRAP. With the notable exception of intimidating the public, there is little use for an armored vehicle in Walton County’s arsenal. Adkinson’s comments do little to clarify his intentions. After his original statement was debunked, Adkinson has focused on stating the MRAP will be used as a negotiation tool. He told the Northwest Florida Daily News that

“It gives us the ability to get close to somebody to talk to them without being in harm’s way.”

More than twenty years ago, the tactic of a deploying a “Throw Phone” became the standard method of communicating safely with a barricaded suspect when another phone is not available. In barricade and hostage situations getting close and forcing a military response is the single most dangerous method of ending the encounter. As a law enforcement website states:

“Tactical assault to rescue the hostages carries the highest casualty rate.”

A “Throw Phone system” is exactly what it sounds like. A phone that is only capable of contacting the negotiator is thrown or delivered via robot to the suspect to enable deputies “to talk to them without being in harm’s way.”

The MRAP is not without civilian uses. The Walton County Fire Department could certainly deploy the MRAP during hurricanes to retrieve those that refused to evacuate. The weight of the vehicle minimizes the chances of it being blown around by wind, and its height and 4-wheel drive capability would allow it to travel through flooded areas or washed out roads.

If the Walton County Sheriff’s Office sees fit to transfer the MRAP to the Walton County Fire Department for this purpose, I will personally obtain a suitable cellular “Throw Phone” system as well as a land line system for the areas of the county that are still too rural to have reliable cellular coverage. Both systems will be given to the Sheriff’s Office at no cost.

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