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In Living

"It sends a message," says Capt. Raap. "It shows the law-abiding citizens that we're actually taking these dope dealers' vehicles and we're using them."

In Living

Funding for the car comes from the seizure, not from taxpayer dollars, and indeed, the Caddy turns heads.

Seized Milwaukee Police Escalade sends message to citizens, criminals alike


The overwhelming majority of blinged out, flashy cars are driven by perfectly law-abiding citizens. But it's no secret, either, that a certain, seedier element likes to roll in pimpin' rides, too, showing off their wealth accumulated from less than reputable means.

The Milwaukee Police Department knows this, too, and occasionally uses its authority to seize vehicles taken in drug raids or other crimes, assuming they can secure a conviction. Sometimes, these cars are sold, other times they're put into service as undercover vehicles.

Occasionally, they enter the force to make a statement.

Currently, MPD owns a 2004 Cadillac Escalade EXT, the kind of SUV you might see in "Entourage" or in a rap video. But this 'Slade is painted black and white and serves as an actual police car -- though it doesn't transport arrested suspects because it hasn't been converted with a protective cage behind the front seats.

Capt. Aaron Raap of the Neighborhood Task Force says MPD has seized many cars, but only has one this flashy in its fleet.

"We'll have a summer where we might seize 10 vehicles, and we'll get four. Sometimes, there will be a summer where we'll seize five and get just one," says Raap.

This particular vehicle is the property of Raap's NTF, an inter-district unit of the police department that patrols the areas in the city with the highest crime rates. It's based out of the old District 3 station on West Vliet Street, and resides in the same task force as the other specialized units like the harbor patrol and motorcycle unit.

The Escalade is just one way MPD is doing things differently under Chief Edward Flynn, and it's a proactive approach to police work, says Raap.

"It's a beautiful vehicle, and we joke that either people are enjoying at what they're looking at," says Rapp, "or you'll see other people wondering how in the world we're funding the 'Caddy for Cops.'"

That funding comes from the seizure, not from taxpayer dollars, and indeed, the Caddy turns heads.

On a brief weekday patrol, the number of people on the streets doing double-takes was obvious. From the woman on the corner of 35th and Vliet Streets, who set down the soda she was sipping to watch the Escalade pass, to the four guys who stopped whatever it is they were doing in a nearby alley, to the "mean mug" sitting on his porch, angrily staring at the SUV -- its presence was undeniable.

Still, Raap says that while driving the Escalade is a good deterrent, getting out on foot is better and more effective. He says it serves as a "force multiplier," but also as reassurance, since even in Milwaukee's worst neighborhoods, "we do have solid citizens, and that helps us."

This particular Escalade was seized after a short-term drug investigation in the Hillside Housing Project on 6th and Cherry, says Raap. Along with the car, police seized $20,000 in cash, a 9 mm pistol and a quarter kilogram of cocaine.

"That's a sizable quantity to recover, especially on a short-term investigation," says Raap.

Raap says the Escalade could have been sold, and MPD would have bought two less expensive vehicles to use as undercover cars, but because it's a GM product, the SUV is easily maintainable by the municipal garage. So, unlike the police Lamborghinis you see in the movies, the Escalade is actually practical for MPD to own and service.

Says Raap, "The powers that be decided to paint it up and send a message to that portion of our community that needs a message sent to them."

The car is assigned to a squad on the day shift -- one of the cops who participated in the in the seizure actually gets to drive it. On the night shift, it's assigned to a different squad, but all are involved in the Street Crimes Unit.

"It sends a message," says Raap. "There happen to be a lot of drug dealers who drive flashy vehicles with big rims and tires. It shows the law-abiding citizens that we're actually taking these dope dealers' vehicles and we're using them."

And to the drug dealers?

"I think the message could irk them," says Raap. "Or it might send the message that we could take their car."

Talkbacks

brunocarlson | July 23, 2010 at 10:59 a.m. (report)

What happened to that '82 Dodge Omni they seized and put into used last year? Too good for an Omni now that they have an Escalade?

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bal90400 | July 21, 2010 at 3:39 p.m. (report)

Now they just need to get some 26"s for that beeatch

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cowboyhat06 | July 21, 2010 at 2:43 p.m. (report)

... and dispite a free Escalade our taxes will still go up. Nice life.

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timot13 | July 21, 2010 at 10:30 a.m. (report)

Wow, MPD really is winning the war on drugs.

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Dusty_Bottoms | July 21, 2010 at 10:25 a.m. (report)

Interesting. I live over by the NTF headquarters and have seen it many times. I was wondering why they had an Escalade.

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