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DPD 'Riot Gear' Purchase Back on Council Agenda

Baihly Warfield
Updated: September 20, 2018 06:52 PM

DULUTH, Minn. - The Duluth Police Department's request to purchase personal protective equipment, what some refer to as "riot gear," is back on the City Council's agenda. 

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Last December, protestors interrupted the final Duluth City Council meeting of the year to express concerns about authorizing an about $84,000 purchase of personal protective equipment, or PPE. 

"I have not seen anything in my lifetime in northern Minnesota that would lead me to believe that constitutional rights being exercised has turned into a riot situation," Tara Houska said in December 2017. 

The next day, Chief Mike Tusken told city councilors that he would hold off on purchasing the equipment. He said it was clear the community has concerns and that the decision should involve a public process. 

Officers attended an NAACP meeting in December 2017 and had a public meeting at City Hall in February 2018. 

Duluth's Chief Administrative Officer Dave Montgomery informed councilors Wednesday that the purchase approval is back on the agenda for Monday's meeting. 

"Administration is honoring the council's request from this past winter to bring this item back for approval before moving ahead with the budgeted purchase," Montgomery wrote in an email. 

At the February public hearing, Chief Tusken said the equipment is a preventative measure. 

"This is for really a finite concern where you have a criminal unlawful assembly going on where there is perhaps property damage, or there are people who are being put in danger or put in harms way where you have to be protected to keep people or property safe," Tusken said then. 

Former councilor Elissa Hansen tried to quell any misconceptions at the 2017 council meeting.

"Generally, you'd have two kneepads, and sometimes, we only have one ... If they were to need to go out for anything right now and they need both elbow pads or both knee pads, we don't have them. So that is truly what the budget is for," Hansen said. "It doesn't include bullets, rubber bullets, and all that kind of stuff that we're aware of."

Councilors have already approved using $83,721 of city capital equipment funds, but the purchase itself has not been given the go-ahead.

Opinions differed on Facebook. 

"I say its better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it," Nathan Linval commented. 

"I've seen this story before...if you don't want a riot, don't come dressed for one," Morgan Thorp wrote. 

"Just because you wish there wouldn't be a need doesn't mean the department should not be prepared," Anne Marie Deneen said on a WDIO Facebook post. 

"The best preparation for a riot is better policing to prevent it in the first place," Dale Pelletier commented.

The City Council meeting is 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

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Baihly Warfield

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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