New Buffalo residents petition against military vehicle

In December 2013, the Berrien County Sheriff's Department received an armored vehicle from the Department of Defense. Since then, some Berrien County residents have been asking to have the former military vehicle removed.

“I was in the Army so I'm used to seeing vehicles like that,” said Vietnam veteran Jim Corwin.

Corwin says he is familiar with Berrien County's armored vehicle. It reminds him of his days in the Army reserves.

“We have the one side where people are against the military vehicle being used in local police departments.  They are wondering if this country is becoming a militarized state.  Then we have the other side that looks at it and says well, the way this country is turning, police need this type of vehicle - with riots and increase in crime,” said Corwin.

Corwin has lived in New Buffalo for over 70 years.  In the last seven decades, Corwin cannot think of many situations where an armored vehicle could have come in handy.

That is why he is one of about 60 people who submitted written statements to the county, asking to have the armored military-style vehicle removed.
“All I can remember are the riots in Benton Harbor and that was quite a few years ago,” Corwin said.

Berrien County Undersheriff Charles Heit says the armored vehicle has not been used for anything other than training at this point, But if needed, it will be used to protect officers during dangerous rescue missions and when they have to serve high-risk warrants.

Corwin says anytime things get dangerous enough to pull out the armored vehicle, it is time to call in the National Guard.

"If we really needed it – just like when they had the Detroit riots, I was on standby then because I was in the military, and National Guard units were called in," said Corwin.

This is not Berrien County's first armored vehicle, the Sheriff's Department bought one with a grant about 30 years ago.

Some residents are upset about the department obtaining the most recent military vehicle because they did not get to vote on it, and their taxpayer dollars are going towards its maintenance.
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