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Residents angry after ICPD uses military-grade armored truck to serve warrants

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A stock image of an MRAP, similar to the one used by the ICPD.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Iowa City Police officers used a military-grade armored truck to serve warrants related to recent shootings Tuesday morning. While police say the operation went off without an incident, many people who saw it drive through their neighborhood say it was unnecessary and seriously hurts community relations.

"My children came outside and were kind of scared like, 'What's going on?'" Eric Harris said, who lives around the corner from where the vehicle was deployed.

The Johnson County Sheriff's Office has owned a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle since 2014. Both the sheriff and a police captain say it's only used on rare occasions where absolutely necessary. ICPD has used the armored truck seven times in seven years, but two times it was only staged and brought back.

"Due to the high-risk nature of one of the warrants the MRAP was deployed to provide ballistic protection to police personnel and community members. Normal police squad cars do not provide ballistic protection that can protect individuals from the use of firearms," Captain Denise Brotherton said, commander of field operations for ICPD.

While Brotherton would not comment which shootings they were investigating, there was a homicide in Iowa City on May 16, and a shots fired incident on May 7.

In June of 2020, the Iowa City City Council passed a 17-point resolution in response to George Floyd's death, and recent local protests. One of the points was an audit of military-grade equipment and a letter to Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek, asking him to get rid of the MRAP.

Pulkrabek denied and the MRAP stayed available for any of the county's police departments should they need it.

"It's a mine-resistant vehicle. Who has mines around here?" Harris said.

Harris says he wants his kids to grow up trusting police, but using military equipment in anything other than an active shooter situation seems unnecessary.

"I want my children to respect law enforcement, and trust them. But they're not helping it out. Especially with the things they're doing in the last year or so," he said.

City Councilwoman Janice Weiner says she's personally disappointed police decided to use the MRAP Tuesday morning.

"We don't want that vehicle rolling into neighborhoods and people wondering, 'What have we done wrong?'" Weiner said.

She points out the city does have a new sheriff and police chief since the MRAP debate last summer. While their opinions may be the same as their predecessors, she does think it's time to restart this conversation.

"It's still a worthwhile discussion to have, so everyone understands the different aspects of what it means to keep a community safe," she said.

Current Johnson County Sheriff Brad Kunkel said Tuesday he would also decline a request to divest the MRAP.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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