ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Officer-involved shootings happen all over the country. Locally, we're no exception, so law enforcement agencies are now finding new ways to protect those who protect and serve us.
One area sheriff's office is becoming safer for officers after buying heavy equipment for high-risk situations. The Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office will look a bit different as they drive around after receiving a nearly 50,000 pound vehicle designed to keep officers out of harm’s way.
Sheriff Ron Cramer says the main reason for having the armored vehicle is to keep officers safe. Cramer says, "We want people to understand that we wish we didn't have to have this vehicle. But, in the number of man with a gun calls we get, 20-24 calls, the main part is we want our officers to go home safe to their families when they're done with the incident."
The Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office has received a large armored vehicle once used by the U.S. military in Kuwait. The vehicle is on loan to the department for as long as it's needed. Cramer says the vehicle is more defensive than offensive.
Cramer says, "It's not a tank, it's a defense weapon. If someone is taking offensive action against us, in a domestic violence case or fire upon our officer and we're trying to negotiate to get out, this gives us a platform to negotiate from and to communicate with an individual safely. We don't want to put our officers in harm’s way."
Other law enforcement agencies have received equipment from the military. The Eau Claire Police Department received a total of 20 M-16 rifles from the Department of Defense, from 1996 to 2002.
Cramer says it's all about keeping people safe. He says, “We want to give our officers the tools to get home safely but we know that people have meltdowns, and that they get themselves in bad situations. So, we have to be prepared for the “what ifs” in life. I'd love to be able to say to you today that we’ll never need this vehicle, but I'm not confident in that.
Cramer says this vehicle, along with the BearCat armored truck acquired through a federal grant in 2005, will provide great coverage in high risk situations. Cramer says just like you wouldn't want military personal going to war without proper armor, he doesn't want to send officers into dangerous situations without the proper tools either.
Cramer also says the vehicle will be used in more than just high-risk situations, it will be used during severe weather, such as blizzards or floods, to rescue people who are stranded. Officers may also use it to warm up, or cool down during a long, drawn-out situation.