Tracy, MN, a town of 2,100, possesses an armored vehicle for its two full-time cops [UPDATE]

Categories: Guns, Police
armored_truck_tracyMN.jpg
Does a Minnesota town with only two full-time cops really need this vehicle?
UPDATE: Another small Minnesota town's police department has come under fire for possessing what some may call excessive military equipment. Royalton possesses a grenade launcher thanks to a free program offered through the U.S. Department of Defense. According to the chief of police, the grenade launcher has languished in a safe for five years.

The images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed teen was shot to death August 9, precipitating mass protests, show cops crouching on armored tanks and squinting into sniper scopes. They're dressed head to toe in camouflage as they rush civilians with assault rifles.

For this, we can credit a U.S. Department of Defense program that was created in the early 1990s and gives free military equipment to sheriff's offices, local police departments, and state agencies. It became all the rage of the post-9/11 era and today touches every corner of the United States. Minnesota is no exception.

See also:
North Mpls Ferguson vigil gets tense after arrest of woman holding "Don't Shoot" sign

All but four counties in the state have received equipment in the last decade, according to data compiled by the New York Times. St. Louis County, for instance, which includes Duluth, owns a mine-resistant vehicle. Authorities in Dakota County have $180,000 worth of night vision goggles. Hennepin County is home to an infrared system that's worth $415,739.09. (The numbers are not broken down by specific law enforcement agencies, so it's difficult to know whether a pair of boots went to, say, Minneapolis or Bloomington.)

Then there's Ramsey County, whose various law enforcement agencies are by far the biggest recipient of defense patronage in the state. The list is huge -- totaling more than $1.8 million -- and includes everything from parkas to a bomb-disposing robot. In between, you'll find three helicopters as well as 40 pistols and 992 assault rifles. Seventy-one M16s and 19 M14s belong to the sheriff's office.

We asked Sgt. John Eastham, a spokesman, about the weapons, and he was quick to point out that the M16s have been permanently converted into semi-automatic rifles, no different than ones you'd find at Gander Mountain.

"These are weapons we were going to use anyhow, because they're more accurate than handguns and shotguns in an active shooter situation," he says. Plus it relieves pressure on their own budget. "It was the fiscally responsible thing to do," he adds.

By comparison, the police agencies in St. Louis County, Missouri, which includes Ferguson, received less than a third of what the police agencies in Ramsey County did. More troubling still is what some of the least populous counties have at their disposal. Benton and Blue Earth each possess a $65,000 armored truck. Mahnomen County owns a grenade launcher for firing gas canisters; Mille Lacs County has two.

According to the Minnesota National Guard, the agencies who've participated in the federal program since the '90s include the Department of Natural Resources, 85 county sheriffs, and 325 police departments. The total value of the gear is more than $25 million.

Bear in mind, this equipment comes courtesy of the Pentagon, so it represents only a small part of the picture. Law enforcement agencies also purchase military equipment with their own money, or via Department of Homeland Security grants.

So many options, right? Never fear: The hardworking folks at the Minnesota Law Enforcement Support Office program have your back. They set up Tracy, Minnesota, a town of 2,100 people, with an armored tank vehicle. In a video posted last summer, Kim Ketterhagen, the program's point person, appealed to other small towns: "Please reach out to us and obtain this equipment. It's just there for the asking."

Which still doesn't explain why cops need this equipment. Maybe the bigger problem is gun violence in the United States. Is it really a stretch to say that cops are beefing up because they're scared?

Brady Burnside, chief deputy of the Mahnomen County Sheriff's Office, describes himself as "a rarity in law enforcement" because he believes in greater restrictions on gun ownership. He's watched social media blow up in the last week with stories of how few police shootings there are overseas.

"It seems like all they want to talk about is how many people are being killed by law enforcement in the United States," Burnside says. "Nobody wants to talk about the officers killed or the threat that officers feel daily."

But are assault rifles and tanks the solution? Last week, David Ebinger, the chief of police in Moorhead, Minnesota, told a reporter, "If you show up with that gear and you don't have a riot, you're inviting one."

::: UPDATE :::

An email comes to us this afternoon from someone claiming to speak on behalf of Tracy police (no one returned our message left Friday). The person says the department consists of four officers, not three (two full time and one part time), and the Humvee is made of aluminum that "you could poke a hole in with a screw driver."

Sounds like they need some tougher vehicles.

::: UPDATE II :::

More than a few readers have reached out in the last 24 hours to disagree with our characterization of Tracy's vehicle as "armored." While tougher than a Crown Vic, the Humvee in this case has not been outfitted with the kind of armor kit you'll find overseas. It's a point well taken. We're still awaiting comment from the Tracy police department.


-- Send story tips to the author or follow him on Twitter @marxjesse

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246 comments
Mike Lindsay
Mike Lindsay

armored or not is a small detail to the issue at hand... i.e. government waste

Kevin Reichel
Kevin Reichel

Have you seen how we fight terror? It's not with an unarmored 4WD truck. +1 for snarkiness, but -2 for flame bait.

Kevin Reichel
Kevin Reichel

You could stop this truck with a bag of rocks. It's not for fighting as much as it is for helping.

Kevin Reichel
Kevin Reichel

This is pretty ignorant. You know that this vehicle is used for winter rescue and policing extreme rural areas? Do you even leave your home ever? You are perpetuating your own conspiracy by living in fear of the world outside your home.

professorbc
professorbc

Look at this giant pile of shit called an article.  Have you ever been to Tracy Minnesota?  Probably not.  You can't ride a fixie out there in the winter.  Did you ever stop to think that maybe they need a humvee to go into the extremely rural areas during winter?  Nope, you are just jumping on the racial-tension bandwagon and quite frankly you are fear mongering.

Greg Applekamp
Greg Applekamp

Did the blog posters on City pages get their journalism degrees at National American University? It seems lately city pages articles are about as truthful and trustworthy as the national enquirer.

Rob Rydberg
Rob Rydberg

I wonder how many people will think it is crazy and not stop when this thing pulls up behind them. Gets great mileage too!

ellieb311
ellieb311

The Tracy PD shouldn't have to waste time responding to such a joke of an article.  This is an embarrassment for City Pages.  The Tracy PD get a Hummer for next to nothing and use it as a winter rescue vehicle and then the author twists the truth in order to spread anti-police propaganda.

ellieb311
ellieb311

Maybe its time for the irresponsible "journalist" to change the title of the article since its not an armored vehicle but a winter rescue vehicle.  I know it wouldn't get as much attention, but journalism is supposed to be about sharing accurate information, not getting page views.  This is a joke.

Alfredo Zamorano
Alfredo Zamorano

OMG The US. economy will tank because of one beat up hammer. Jonathan, take a deep breath , put your legs up and relax.

REDSKY
REDSKY

hahahaha! Democrats and Republicans are one and the same. America has become a fascist oligarchy. Welcome to serfdom. Revolt or die.

Jeff Hames
Jeff Hames

There is a serious problem with meth production in the area. Very poor journalism CP.

Tad Wagner
Tad Wagner

So it depends on which one this is folks.

Tad Wagner
Tad Wagner

The HMMWV was designed primarily for personnel and light cargo transport behind front lines, not as a front line fighting vehicle. Like the previous Jeep, the basic HMMWV has no armor or protection against chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear threats.

Justin Irvine
Justin Irvine

Why does a small town need an a hummv? they get terrible fuel mileage. There is about a 0% chance of a terrorist attack and about 100% chance the cops get a feeling they are above the law and that they are fighting a war on the people they protect. I rather see these melted down for scrap

Dan Bailey
Dan Bailey

Armored vehicle, huh? Looks like a standard Humvee, which stops bullets about as well as tissue paper.

ellieb311
ellieb311

The author writes the article to outrage people that the police have an armored vehicle and then when it is pointed out to him that its not an armored vehicle but a winter rescue vehicle his response is "sounds like they need tougher vehicles"... yeah, that makes sense.  Way to report a bunch of nonsense.

Miranda Rose
Miranda Rose

What they need that incase someone tries to.steal a blizzard from DQ?....

Steven Christian
Steven Christian

It's not armored really, it's a standard H1 by the looks of it. Broke many of them in my day.

Jonas Molitor
Jonas Molitor

Jonathan, it sounds like you'd be a better investigative reporter than these guys. Call Tracy Municipal and ask.

Jonathan London
Jonathan London

"Receive" "restored it" who paid for it? "Used for fun" Where is it stored? How often is it used? The fact that they have it on the city balance sheet is compelling enough for discussion.

Gregory Eylandt
Gregory Eylandt

Number 1, it's not armored and 2, it's too slow to be a cop car.

Jim Freund
Jim Freund

And if what I heard on the radio this week is true, they've gotta use it soon or they'll have to give it back.

professorbc
professorbc

In this area of Minnesota, there are extreme rural parts that are almost inaccessible during winter.  Also, there is a decent amount of meth being produced in these rural areas.

ellieb311
ellieb311

because they got it for next to nothing and use it as a winter rescue vehicle because of its off-road capabilities...


ellieb311
ellieb311

actually its used to rescue people in blizzards...

ellieb311
ellieb311

Number 3, its perfect for pulling cars out of snow ditches (its actual job).

ellieb311
ellieb311

its not used for patrol... just a winter rescue vehicle.  but thanks for your concern.

ellieb311
ellieb311

@digitalprotocol @ellieb311  thanks for the intelligent input... seeing your support for inaccurate reporting really destroys your credibility, if your childish comment hasn't already

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@ellieb311 based on all your replies you are a shill for the cops or a stupid cop yourself 


fuck off and die

ellieb311
ellieb311

@digitalprotocol @ellieb311  care to back up your crazy with any logic or support? 


digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@ellieb311  uhh like the fact that the military industrial complex has transitioned into our backyard and is now exploiting taxpayers


either you are a stupid pig or just a really brainwashed fool from the hinterland.



ellieb311
ellieb311

@digitalprotocol @ellieb311  how is that related to the Tracy PD using a hummer as a winter rescue vehicle? it must hurt to be so paranoid... whatever gets your mind off your shitty life I guess


digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@ellieb311  how is that related???


its directly related you stupid hick, go back to the farm

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

@ellieb311 believe what ever you want....just know you are a bootlicker and stupid enough to fall for the conditioning 

ellieb311
ellieb311

@digitalprotocol sorry that your paranoia and anger clouds your thinking.  Do you live in tracy? didn't think so... you're just a fear clown.

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