Following the police response to Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, MO, Dane County NAACP members voted Tuesday night to spend the next few months planning a countywide law enforcement summit looking at what the civil rights organization feels are local authorities using militaristic tactics.
“We are talking about the police. We are talking the sheriff. We are talking about the UW police. All of those groups would be the invitees to this,” NAACP Dane Co. Pres. Gwen Jones said.
In speaking about his criticism of the Pentagon's 1033 program, which gives local police department’s equipment like former military vehicles called MRAP’s for free, Dane Co. NAACP Vice-chair Nino Amato referenced a grenade launcher currently locked up inside the Waunakee Police Department.
"I wasn't even aware when I became chief in 2000 that we possessed the item," Waunakee Police Chief Kevin Plendl says. “In my opinion and experience there's no purpose for a weapon like this in a municipal law enforcement agency.”
Plendl says he was shocked when a mid-2000s audit showed in 1998 the Waunakee Police Dept. had received the gun-like military shooter typically used to help soldiers better launch chemical weapons, like tear gas, under the 1033 program. When the feds would not take the launcher back, he had his staff disarm and lock the launcher in a safe where it still remained.
“Basically it’s taking the items, keeping it in a safe in our armed room so nobody can have access to it,” Plendl says.
The NAACP’s concerns reach far beyond grenade launchers and MRAPS. At the meeting, Amato referenced the $28 million in total military equipment that's travelled across Wisconsin under the 1033 program.
The NAACP will spend the next few months planning the summit, but still has not decided as a body if and when they will push forward to individually meet with Madison Police Chief Michael Koval.