Sarah Volpenhein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
|Officers in swat gear work at the intersection of West Fond du Lac Avenue and West Burleigh Street near a Jet Beauty store that was looted in Milwaukee May 30. Behind them is an armored vehicle. (Photo: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)|
Wisconsin law enforcement agencies have more than $45 million worth of surplus military equipment in their possession through a Department of Defense program at a time when some police have come under criticism for "militant" responses to protests.
That includes $28.7 million worth of mine-resistant armored vehicles provided to 39 law enforcement agencies across Wisconsin through the so-called 1033 program, all at little to no cost to the departments, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis of federal data.
That kind of heavy equipment has been spotted on Milwaukee streets during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.
During confrontations between police and protesters, officers rode in armored vehicles and fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters, a response that drew a rebuke from Mayor Tom Barrett, pointed questions from Common Council members and condemnation from the ACLU of Wisconsin.
Milwaukee police have said they don't use force against peaceful protesters. In at least one of the incidents, police officials cited glass and rocks being thrown before using rubber bullets and tear gas.
Emilio De Torre, community engagement director for the ACLU, urged police departments to "stop using tanks," "stop using military tactics" and to "divest" from the 1033 program.
"We see Milwaukee Police Department officers in military-seeming gear ... and firing rubber bullets at unarmed demonstrators from what, to a casual observer, looks like a tank," he said.