WASHINGTON, Ia. – The police chief has yet to mount flashing lights and a siren and plaster his department's official logo on the sides of his new vehicle.
Not that Greg Goodman needs such window dressings so that this 49,000-pound, 10-foot-tall, six-wheel-drive behemoth will cause necks to crane and local motorists to veer out of the way.
Twenty-nine years ago when he joined the Washington Police Department, Goodman never imagined he would crave such a thing. The newest and by far bulkiest addition to his fleet makes a Chevy Tahoe SUV look like a Hot Wheels collectible: a fully armored military vehicle designed to prowl a desert war zone.
This MRAP — pronounced "em-rap" and short for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected — is the talk of southeast Iowa.
Military recycling after more than a decade of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan has led to this: Through a federal program, seven of these metal beasts have been donated to Iowa law enforcement agencies — five of them in recent weeks.
These are high dollar items.
It could be much, much worse, The U.S.government has decided to either abandon or destroy BILLIONS of dollars worth of war making equipment as they pull our forces out of Afghanistan.
I can only imagine what they would be doing to dispose of all that equipment if they had decided to pay to bring it all back home.
Every podunk police station in the country would be armed to the teeth with offensive weapons.
Police departments in Mason City and Storm Lake also have received MRAPs, as well as sheriffs in Buena Vista, Jasper, Scott and Story counties.
Goodman and his counterparts in other cities tend to describe the MRAP as merely "another tool" to keep officers safe when a pistol and body armor are insufficient.
Washington's "Crisis Response Unit" (a mobile command center) is just an old, converted ambulance. And none of its squad cars are bulletproof, let alone designed with a v-shaped belly to deflect bomb blasts.
So Goodman envisions the MRAP as an extreme option during tense standoffs, (God forbid) school shootings or even a tornado.
"I hope it's not used a lot," he said. "That means things are going very well."
The Washington City Council took convincing before it approved this controversial freebie, and Councilman Robert Shellmyer held firm last month with the lone "no" vote that he wears as a badge of honor.
"We're being laughed at," said Shellmyer, 78. "I went to Ainsworth the other day, and everybody wants to ask me if we're sleeping better at night now that we have the 'tank.' "
As it is, these armored monsters have the ability to drive through a house.
One aspect that all these police departments seem to overlook while they are kicking the tires and drooling over these huge vehicles is the costs to operate and maintain these things.
At five miles to the gallon and hundreds of dollars just to change the oil, these costs are going to become a real issue when these bills start getting handed to the taxpayers.
I can imagine where they come to the point that they tell these police chiefs that you either decide to keep this thing or start laying off employees.
Police departments all over the country are already having trouble getting enough money to keep up the level of services they have become accustomed to.
Throw one of these in the motor pool and watch what happens in the next couple of years.