BLOOMING PRAIRIE — At its Monday night meeting, the Blooming Prairie City Council signed off on a donation from Arkema Inc. to the Blooming Prairie Police Department for purchase of the force’s first ballistic shield.
City Administrator Andrew Langholz said the request initially came up at a January police commission meeting, where it was explained that because the item wasn’t included in the 2020 budget, the department wouldn’t be authorized to purchase it out of pocket.
Police Chief Greg Skillestad said the shield has been on the agency’s mind for roughly a year, adding, “We didn’t have the money in last year’s budget.”
He explained that the shield, for which Arkema donated $2,500, will go out with officers on patrol and be able to deflect shots fired from handguns, shotguns and assault rifles.
“This line of work can be full of potential dangers. Seeing all the stories out there, it’s something that we as a police department came together and decided on,” he explained, of the impetus for looking into a shield. “What happened in Waseca really does touch close to home … but we also hear about it daily. Having the proper equipment has always been number one for me.”
Waseca Police Officer Arik Matson was shot and gravely injured while responding to a call early last month, and is continuing to recover in an acute care facility.
Skillestad added that he went to Arkema specifically because the manufacturer had donated to the department in the past, notably for the former K-9 unit. While donations for police initiatives like National Night Out are fairly common, companies giving money for equipment purchases is more rare. The chief said this is the first private donation he’s gotten since coming on board five years ago.
Langholz seconded that it’s not an everyday occurrence, saying this is also the first instance he’s seen in his few years in the field. In a memo to council members, he wrote, “Legally, the PD can solicit donations, but this should not become common practice.”
“Basically, it’s that I don’t want the police to rely on something like that,” Langholz explained. “We budget for those types of things, but this is something outside of our normal capital outlay — which would be cars, guns, all of those things.”
He also noted that he wouldn’t want businesses to feel any sort of necessity or pressure to give money. Skillestad added that the department can’t in practice solicit to the same extent as a nonprofit, but that they also can’t bill out for calls like other public safety agencies.
“We’re not a nonprofit, but at the same time, police and law enforcement aren’t out there making money,” he said, thanking Arkema. “There have been some cases where we would have used [the shield] in the past and now this is a great gift that it’ll be there for us when we need it again.”
With the donation formally approved by the city, Skillestad said he’ll be working now on ordering the shield and that there will still be a little bit of time before it’s out on patrol with officers.