State’s Police Chiefs Argue That Local Agencies Need Military Vehicles

About 2 Dozen Local Police Forces Have Obtained Heavily Armored Trucks

A Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. Photo: SaganSapien (CC-BY-SA).

As members of Congress call for hearings on the militarization of law enforcement, Wisconsin police say that the heavily armored vehicles many departments have added to their inventory are needed.

About two-dozen local law enforcement departments have used a Department of Defense program to get dump-truck sized armored vehicles.

“It’s just another tool in the tool box,” said St. Croix County Sheriff John Shilts. “Granted, it’s a little bit of an odd tool.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

St. Croix County itself has a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle — a three-axle, six-wheeled mobile shield.

“Having been a former tactical officer, I can tell you when you get into those situations and you have to approach an individual who has either been firing shots or is threatening to fire shots and you’re trying to approach with a portable shield — if I had had the option of an armored vehicle to make that approach much safer, I certainly would have appreciated it back then,” said Shilts.

Superior Police Chief Chuck LaGesse has never had to use his armored car, but said he’s ready to deploy it in a dangerous situation.

“If there wasn’t an enhanced threat, the most we’d do is bring it up and leave it in reserve,” said LaGesse. “If we are facing a situation as we see in Ferguson, where there has been shots fired and Molotov cocktails thrown and bricks and those sort of items thrown … it would be in closer proximity.”

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval changed the name of his department’s MRAP to, “Armored Rescue Vehicle.”

“It certainly cuts against the image that we would like to have in terms of community policing,” said Koval. “It’s sort of counterintuitive that we’re trying to get close to the people we serve, win their hearts and minds — and we’re going to roll up in what is a pseudo-tank?”

No force has used their armored vehicle, though Shilts says his department loaned theirs to a neighboring county.

The military surplus armored vehicles were acquired for the price of transporting them to the state. Using a federal program, the $500,000 MRAPs can be purchased for about $5,000.