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Military surplus benefits SPD

The Superior Police Department received a mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle for the cost of shipping it from Texas. The vehicle will be used by the department’s Emergency Response Team. (Shelley Nelson/

Courtesy of the U.S. military and the draw-down of military forces in the Middle East, the Superior Police Department has a new tool in its arsenal to fight crime.

This week, the department received an armor-plated mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle. The total cost for the vehicle valued at $733,000 was $4,500.

“The truly remarkable thing is that we got it here for the cost of transporting it,” said Police Chief Charles LaGesse. It only has 6,200 miles on it and the engine is clean, like someone replaced it, he said.

The vehicle was provided to the city as part of a Defense Department reutilization program that provides military equipment for use by law enforcement agencies.

“As these vehicles are coming out of the Middle Eastern theaters, they’re becoming increasingly available,” LaGesse said.

While the city wasn’t among those selected two or three years ago, when five vehicles became available in the state of Wisconsin, the city ranked fifth to receive one as another 16 are becoming available in the state.

LaGesse said he was notified in late April the MRAP would be in Texas in early May and the department would have to make arrangements to transport it if the city still wanted it.

The MRAP arrived Monday in Superior, and next week, the police department starts training to use the 47,000-pound vehicle.

The armored vehicle used by the armed forces was designed to survive the blast of improvised explosive devices.

In Superior, the armored plating of the fighting vehicle could prove lifesaving for members of the police department’s Emergency Response Team, and aid in the rescue of civilians in the event of an active shooter, LaGesse said. It’s big enough to hold all 14 members of the regional tactical team.

“You’ve got to recognized that any other vehicle we possess, if you shoot at it, it gets a hole punch through it,” LaGesse said. Squad cars and the ambulance long used by the Emergency Response Team are not bullet resistant, however, the MRAP is, he said.

“If we needed to get somewhere or get wounded in, there’s easily enough room to get us all in,” said Superior Police Sgt. Tom Champaign.

But don’t expect to see the MRAP on patrol.

“We’re not going to drive this around on patrol; it will receive minimal miles — training and deployment,” LaGesse said. “I don’t think we’re going to wear it out. In 20 years, we won’t put 10,000 miles on it. There’s no way … I don’t see us wearing it out in my lifetime.”

However, he does anticipate maintenance costs associated with time and wear on a vehicle its size.

LaGesse said he expects to start working with the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department, which already received an MRAP, to train officers on everything from driving a vehicle that large to operating the mechanics of the doors.

LaGesse said the department will have one or two primary drivers trained, but all members of the ERT will be able to move it.

“The first guy here will be able to get it to where it’s needed,” Champaign said.

LaGesse said while he’s heard criticism that the police department’s goal is to intimidate citizens, his concern is public and officer safety if Superior is faced with an active shooter.

“We buy bullet proof vests, shields. They protect just one small area of the officer,” LaGesse said. “This is the same thing on a big scale. … and it’s something that citizens can get behind and it’s bulletproof.”