Police Departments See Influx of War Gear

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Los Angeles County Sheriff's SWAT team members standing on a armored car during a massive manhunt for a suspect who attempted to kill two detectives on June 25, 2013. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

In Wisconsin, when Neenah City Councilman Bill Pollnow learned that the police department of a neighboring town had just received a 9-foot-tall, 30-ton military tank—a leftover from America's "long season of war"—he shot an email to Neenah's police department.

He was surprised by the reply he got. A similar combat vehicle was coming to Neenah in just a week.

Neenah is not the only American town to suddenly get M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers, machine guns and more.  Since 2006, state and local law enforcement officials have acquired 432 mine-resistant ambush protected armored vehicles (MARPs), more than 93,000 machine guns, and nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines.

What does a town like Neenah, with its lower-than-average crime rates, need a mine-resistant tank for?

Neenah City Councilman Bill Pollnow joins The Takeaway to explain.

The Takeaway also contacted Neenah Police Chief Kevin Wilkinson; he was unavailable for an interview but commented by email:

"I've been a cop for 30 years. I've seen a lot of bad things Americans did to Americans. I recognize that there are some pretty nasty deeds going on in big cities, in small towns, and at rural homesteads. So for 30 years, I've been wearing a ballistic vest any time I am on patrol. In those 30 years, I have never needed it. Not once.

"But even though it's awkward and itchy and uncomfortable and hot, I wear it anyway. Just in case. Does a quiet midwestern city of 25,000 people need a military armored vehicle? I hope not. I pray not.

"But I'd rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Especially, when you consider the price.

"My only desire in all of this is to be reasonable and keep people safe. I believe that's my job."


Bill Pollnow Jr.

Produced by:

Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [6]

anne sweeney from Peabody, MA

Police have now begun to look like Soldiers, this is not Iraq or Afghanistan. Militarize our borders, not our city streets where our children play. There is so much discussion about Guns, but the police scare us and our children with their Huge display of Weapons and Tactical Military Armored Vehicles. Enough is Enough, there are way, too many police forces within our communities.
Think about it, we have our local police, the forestry police, the environmental police, the Department of Homeland Security Police, the State Police, the Transit Police, the Sheriffs Department Police, Metropolitan Police, the Postal Police, MBTA Police, SWAT Police, Treasury Police, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the Capitol Police, The Rail Road MCRB Police, the FAA Police the MAA police, the Court Police and the Campus Police.

Do you wonder why, people are afraid and paranoid. Yet despite all of these police there is nothing pro-active rather than reactive to respond to crime.
Nothing to assist and help people in a pro-active response. To help and warn not always to arrest and prosecute.

Jun. 25 2014 01:29 AM
John Catlin from New Hampshire

I was born and raised in Neenah (5th generation). It is one of the most bucolic and peaceful places in this country - what they are doing with an armored vehicle (certainly not a tank) is very hard to understand. They should kindly arrange to have it scraped and the proceeds go to maintaining the flowers in Shattuck Park.

Jun. 11 2014 01:03 PM
Paul Conrad from Vine Grove, KY

They didn't get a tank. A tank is a tracked vehicle, armed with a canon, designed for direct fire engagements against other tanks and dug in troops. The current tanks in the US inventory weigh 70 tones, cost $8 million, require a crew of four, and are powered by a turbine engine that requires it's own support staff. We are not giving these to cities; they could not afford to operate one, even if they just used it in parades.
All armored vehicles are not tanks. The MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) truck the town of Neenah got is not even close.

Jun. 10 2014 04:32 PM
Louise Christy from Sunnyvale, California

Hockenberry is one of the worst interviewers I've ever heard on NPR. His biases are manifest in the way he words his questions. He seems to want to show off his supposed knowledge of the topic--his actual knowledge is another area of weakness--when he should stick to journalism instead of commentary. There have been many past examples, but just on this one segment he twice words his comment or question in such a way that he puts significant words into the mouth of the interviewee which the interviewee then has to contradict.

Jun. 10 2014 03:53 PM

I've been to Neenah.

They don't need a tank.

Jun. 10 2014 03:47 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I'd rather our Police Force have the tanks then sell these weapons on the open market. You never know when the Zombies will rise and need to be shot in the head.

I live in New York and I could easily see another Hurricane or disaster happening where I'd want cops to have more guns, in order to control pandemonium.

I'm surprised I feel this way.

Jun. 10 2014 01:54 PM

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