Police in the Wisconsin town of Neenah have reassured residents that military trucks obtained from the U.S. Army now being deployed for domestic law enforcement duties won’t be used to fire on the locals.
The fact that authorities even need to make such a statement underscores increasing concern over the militarization of domestic policing as police departments across the country obtain vehicles and equipment once used to occupy Afghanistan and Iraq under the Department of Defense’s excess property program.
The Neenah Police Department recently acquired a mine-resistant Caiman multi-terrain vehicle, while the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department and Appleton police are already using the same model of vehicle.
According to the Associated Press, “Police are working to dispel negative public perception of the military look of the 37,000-pound rig,” by claiming its use is necessary to protect cops against high powered gunfire during violent confrontations. Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson admitted that the truck would “increase operational and maintenance costs for the area’s taxpayers.”
Lt. Jeff Malcore, Neenah’s SWAT team leader, felt it necessary to relay the fact that the vehicle’s gun turret had been removed and that the truck wouldn’t be used to mow down the locals.
“We have no ability to shoot out of it,” Malcore said. “All it does is allow us to get from one place to another so we can deploy our people, or if there’s firing coming in, we can back up to a window or something to get people out.”
Fears that police have long since dispensed with “protect and serve” and now instead treat Americans in general as the enemy were again raised last week when Morgan County, Indiana Police Sergeant Dan Downing admitted that the militarization of domestic law enforcement was partly to deal with returning veterans who are now seen as a homegrown terror threat. A local Fox affiliate reported that the cops were now “armed for war” against such threats.
Downing also related how residents would see the police department’s Mine Resistant Vehicle (MRAP) at gas stations and ask if it was going to be used for mass gun confiscation.
During a Concord City Council meeting last year concerning the city’s purchase of a Bearcat armored vehicle, former Marine Corps Colonel Peter Martino, who was stationed in Fallujah and trained Iraqi soldiers, warned that that the Department of Homeland Security is working with law enforcement to build a “domestic army,” because the federal government is afraid of its own citizens.