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Superior City Council OKs new armored vehicle for PD; will replace military vehicle

The Superior Police Department will soon have a less militaristic look when officers respond to a critical incident. Last week, the Superior City Council approved the purchase of an armored tactical response vehicle for the department's emergency...

The Superior Police Department will soon have a less militaristic look when officers respond to a critical incident.

Last week, the Superior City Council approved the purchase of an armored tactical response vehicle for the department's emergency response team. About $250,000 of the $300,000 vehicle will be paid for by Aligned Law Enforcement Regional Teams (ALERT) through the Wisconsin Department of Emergency Management.

The Superior Emergency Response Team is one of eight designated ALERTs in Wisconsin, which provide assistance to law enforcement agencies in the region during critical incidents that require a response from a tactical team. In exchange, ALERT provides training and equipment to the designated teams.

The move is going to demilitarize the police department, Superior Mayor Jim Paine said. Currently, the department relies on an Army surplus MRAP (mine-resistant ambush-protected) vehicle it received in 2014 to use as an armored vehicle.

"When the previous administration decided to bring that in, it filled a need," Superior Police Chief Nick Alexander said. "We didn't have anything that provided ballistic protection to help us here in the city. The county has a unit, but they store it in Hawthorne and when we need it, we need it quick, and that just doesn't work well for us."

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However, the MRAP also has its challenges because of its size and difficulty to maintain, the chief said.

"It's not like we can bring it to a local shop and there's parts for it, so it's costly to do repairs on," Alexander said. "Overall, the image of it, too."

Alexander said he sees the public questioning what is going on when the MRAP is on the street, and veterans' memories can be triggered by the vehicle, which was designed for combat in the Middle East. The city's MRAP was provided by a U.S. Department of Defense surplus program implemented with the drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's probably not only cumbersome, but it probably potentially causes damage to streets," Alexander said. "The vehicle we want to use for emergency operations - we want to be able to drive up on lawns possible, get close to a house to initiate contact with people."

Alexander said while the MRAP can accomplish the task, it also likely causes excessive damage.

The new vehicle will be similar to an armored car like a bank would use, and will serve the needs of a team like the Superior Emergency Response Team, Alexander said. He said it's similar to the BearCat the county owns, but will be a four-door model on a Ford 1-ton frame and powertrain that will be serviceable at Benna Ford in Superior. It comes with a 10-year warranty.

"It more appropriately represents our department and the community then a desert sand-colored piece of Army equipment," Alexander said. "And we were able to secure $250,000 in state funding for it, so the cost to the city was significantly reduced, and it's a more appropriate piece of equipment that has a long-term stay here."

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