- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — A debate about the militarization of Minnesota police forces has been renewed in light of the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Many critics have questioned the need for a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle in St. Cloud, the St. Cloud Times (https://on.sctimes.com/1AuTQJo ) reported. People didn’t think it was needed in a city of St. Cloud’s size. But Police Chief Blair Anderson thinks it has already proven its worth.

The military grade vehicle, known as an MRAP, has been used in standoffs and high-risk searches since it was unveiled 10 months ago.

“A lot of thought went into us getting the MRAP, and my staff had to prove to me that there would be some utility in us having it,” Anderson said. “That’s not a hard standard to meet unfortunately, because we’ve had occasion to use ours a few times since we got it.”

Anderson said the presence of the MRAP doesn’t mean the department is loading up on military surplus. He said some equipment is given by the federal government for little or no cost. The department has also received sleeping bags, night vison goggles and firearms, among others.

“We also have a fiduciary responsibility to our taxpayers, and if we can find a way to address our needs and be fiscally responsible, well, to me, that’s a win-win,” Anderson said.

Anderson said it’s necessary for local law enforcement to prepare for skirmishes with criminals armed with high-powered weapons.

“There’s nothing in the rule books that says we have to be outgunned,” Anderson said. “And we take our responsibility very seriously. When you have people running around at large with automatic weapons and they’ve demonstrated they’re willing to use them, we need to be able to at least match that level of force and obviously exceed it when the situation calls for it.”

Anderson said certain tools help the department fulfill its obligation to resolve issues while protecting victims, the public and officers.

“I would challenge anyone who’s never been on the business end of an automatic rifle to contest the need for something like (the MRAP),” he said. “When you’ve got a barricaded suspect with untold firepower, you’re not going to drive up to that structure - wherever that suspect has barricaded themselves - in a normal squad car. That’s just not smart, and we’re not going to find resolution that way.”

Sheriff’s offices in Dakota, Pine, Sherburne, St. Louis, Olmsted and Wright counties got MRAPs last year.


Information from: St. Cloud Times, https://www.sctimes.com



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