The Lenco BearCat G2, a contentious, expensive armored truck purchased by the City of Bloomington earlier this year, finally arrived for public viewing July 10, according to the Indiana Daily Student. Among the BearCat’s features are ballistic protection, gun ports for sheltered shooting and a detachable battering ram for breaking down walls.
Not only is this $225,000 investment an abject waste of taxpayer dollars better spent actually improving Bloomington, it is an active step toward consolidating police power in a city that does not need such paramilitary law enforcement.
The process of purchasing the BearCat began when the government opaquely shifted funds originally intended to build a new police garage in 2017. According to Mayor John Hamilton’s 14-page announcement about buying the new armored truck, the garage project’s bids were too high, so the city determined the money set aside for its construction should instead be invested in the BearCat.
This was decided without first consulting the public.
Mayor Hamilton and Bloomington Police Department Chief Michael Diekhoff have since apologized for the initial lack of transparency, but Hamilton’s ensuing justification for this purchase laid out in the announcement provides more attempts to confuse and mislead.
In the “Review and Analysis” section of the document, Hamilton suggests that, because violent crime in our community and the nationwide concentration of privately owned guns are both increasing, the purchase of an armored vehicle is warranted. He also mentions BPD stopped a gun-owning individual who may have been planning to attack Kilroy’s Sports in 2012.
There are a few issues with these statistics. First, an increase in violent crime does not infer an increase in mass shootings, hostage situations or other instances in which the BearCat would be necessary or permissible. This is a dishonest use of statistics.
Additionally, legal civilian gun ownership is not an acceptable justification for increased police power.
Hamilton writes that law enforcement officers “have no way of knowing when they enter a residence if the person is unarmed, or in the possession of more firepower than our entire police department possesses.” It is difficult to imagine how an armored truck parked on the side of the road would make knocking on doors any safer.
While the city government and BPD may imagine themselves foiling terrorist plots or stopping mass shootings with the BearCat, the reality is the city has pressing issues that an expensive paramilitary vehicle will do absolutely nothing to solve. The mayor admits the CIRT team, which would be the only team authorized to use the vehicle, is only deployed in 0.016 percent of Bloomington’s dispatch calls.
Keep in mind the report does not claim that any of these calls over the past three years, including the possible planned attack on Kilroy's Sports, would have been better handled with the use of the BearCat. Instead, the mayor asserts a BearCat was used in the Orlando, Florida, Pulse nightclub shooting to help about 30 hostages escape.
By this logic, any other SWAT gear that has saved approximately 30 people located hundreds of miles away from Bloomington is fair game for our city’s law enforcement to purchase.
The BPD and city government made no remarks about how the BearCat would curb rape, rampant homelessness, petty theft or the litany of other problems that actually affect daily life in Bloomington. $225,000 could go a long way in alleviating any of these issues, but a reinforced truck, the cost of which is only revealed in the “Supplementary Information” section at the end of Hamilton’s announcement, is apparently a more pressing investment.
No community wants to find itself underprepared if tragedy strikes. But the citizens of Bloomington have not — at least in modern memory — needed law enforcement equipped with such an expensive piece of paramilitary equipment.
We need a city that is safer for women to walk through at night, a city that solves pressing problems rather than prepping for far-off hypotheticals and a city that spends its limited resources in a way that actually improves our lives.
In this pursuit, Mayor Hamilton and the BPD have failed. A $225,000 BearCat will not make daily life in Bloomington any better, and taxpayers should be outraged the local government did not keep their best interests at heart.
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