My apologies for not replying when I said I would. I had forgotten a prior obligation.
As for law enforcement agencies obtaining military surplus, I am of the opinion that it isn't a bad idea. With advances in technology come advanced weaponry. This advanced weaponry is available to pretty much anyone who can afford it & pass a background check. As such, law enforcement agencies should be better equipped than the people that they have to engage. I'd say that the big push for being better prepared started as a result of the North Hollywood shootout in 1997.
Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Hollywood_shootout
The North Hollywood shootout was resolved after officers, realizing that they were outgunned, started getting rifles from local gun stores.
While it's impossible to be prepared for every single scenario, law enforcement agencies are going to do their best to be prepared for as much as possible. In the nytimes.com article, the mine-resistant vehicle that the police department obtained could be used for any number of reasons. Obviously, the department has no intention of going mine hunting, but I would imagine the vehicle would make an excellent armored car, which would be invaluable should an active shooter situation arise.
In a rural area, a guy who is off his medication is shooting at neighbors' houses with a semi-auto rifle. The houses aren't real close, like in a downtown area, but close enough that guy is clearly posing a danger to anyone in the residences in the immediate area. An armored vehicle (courtesy of the military) is brought in, so it is used to provide cover while negotiations take place to get the guy to come out of the house. Guy comes out, gets committed, family members take the guns.
Now, that could've turned out very differently. Having the armored vehicle bought time & opportunity. To be clear, it didn't require a tank. An armored vehicle was sufficient. I honestly can't think of any situation where a tank would be required, with the exception of a criminal stealing a tank & having the knowledge and desire to use it to inflict harm on other people.
Something else to consider about the Neenah PD: I bet they'd gladly offer assistance to any other law enforcement agency requesting assistance. Realistically, it probably doesn't cost a whole lot to maintain, and the one time that it was needed, it would be worth every penny.
Aircraft? They can be used for locating runaway juveniles, dementia patients, and people suspected of committing serious offenses (robbery, murder, etc.).
IMO, the article did a pretty good job of showing both sides of the argument. One question that I have after reading the article is, "Why would law enforcement need silencers?" I don't understand that at all, but maybe there is some reasoning behind that request that I'm overlooking.
RJ, I'm glad you mentioned sovereign citizens. Sovereign citizens are scary folks. If you haven't heard about their beliefs & values, read up on them. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with believing one way or another, but when they get so wrapped up in their radical beliefs that they start acting out...that's where the problem begins. And they're stockpiling ammo and firearms, all of which are obtained legally. The FBI has declared some sovereign citizens to be domestic terrorists (source: http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2010/april/sovereigncitizens_041310
). If a group of well-armed sovereign citizens gets out of hand, it'd stand to reason that an armored vehicle would be useful.
As for the woman getting stripped... it'll be interesting to see how that case turns out.