The Coon Rapids Police Department will soon see additional riot gear thanks to a federal grant.
Council members approved a memorandum of understanding with Anoka County following a public hearing Oct. 7. The grant required the memorandum to ensure funds are spent within the city for law enforcement purposes.
The city is eligible for a $10,373 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, which the city intends to use for protective gear and less-than-lethal equipment.
The grant requires that the money be spent on items outside the normal budget.
“This year we’re looking to enhance our defensive tactics gear relating to riots,” Police Chief Brad Wise said.
The grant will be spent on seven sets of mobile field force gear, which includes helmets and padded equipment, Wise said. The money also will be used to purchase six additional sets of helmets, gas masks and batons and an M-40 device used to fire gas canisters into crowds, according to Wise.
“Frankly it saddens me that I am asking for this stuff to be honest,” Wise said. “I wish I didn’t need to.”
In total the purchase will cost approximately $10,734, but only about $362 will be paid by Coon Rapids residents.
The city has not needed the equipment for events within is borders, but Coon Rapids police were deployed to Minneapolis during the protests and riots earlier this year, Wise said.
A helmet and padded gear can make all the difference when officers are the target of frozen water bottles or rocks, Wise said.
“The idea is we don’t want any of our officers to be injured when they are inserted into a moment like that,” Wise said.
During the public hearing, council members discussed what the city’s role is in responding to a crisis in Minneapolis.
Wise explained that the city of Minneapolis requested mutual aid from nearby cities, which have broad authority to make agreements for deploying officers under mutual aid agreements. While other departments aren’t required to respond to mutual aid requests, it is considered an ethical responsibility, Wise said.
State law provides for the departments who sent aid to be reimbursed by the recipient city. However, Minneapolis has not sent that money to Coon Rapids, Wise said.
“I feel like I should be blunt,” Wise said. “We’re getting stuck with a $44,000 tab, so far.”
That could lead to a dynamic where suburbs stop responding to a city’s requests because the city has left them to foot the bill, Wise said. He referenced reports of sheriffs outside Portland, Oregon, refusing to send deputies to that city.
“There’s a lot to think about in all this moving forward, but Minneapolis needs to get their act together and figure out what they are going to do,” Wise said. “Because I am not going to just have the Coon Rapids citizens pay the bill for the safety and security of Minneapolis. That’s not right.”