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City releases documents, timeline pertaining to purchase of armored vehicle


Before the purchase of the 2018 Lenco Bearcat armored vehicle, the Bloomington Police Department used an armored vehicle obtained from Brinks, Inc. The vehicle fell into disrepair and was scrapped in 2012. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

The City of Bloomington released documents and other information Friday about the proposed purchase of an armored vehicle for the Bloomington Police Department's Critical Incident Response Team.

Acquisition of a similar armored vehicle had been proposed in 2015, according to a timeline on the city's website, but the city did not proceed with any purchases.

Discussion surrounding the purchase continued the following year, and by the end of 2016 BPD received approval from Mayor John Hamilton's office to purchase the vehicle in 2018, as opposed to the previously proposed purchase year of 2019.

The purchase was announced at the Annual Public Safety meeting on Feb. 6, and on Feb. 15 demonstrators disrupted Hamilton's State of the City address in protest of the proposed acquisition.

In addition to the timeline of events surrounding the proposed purchase and future opportunities for public input, the city released BPD's executive report on the vehicle and cost estimates from BearCat manufacturer Lenco Armored Vehicles. 

BPD bought a 1975 Brink's bank truck in 2001, according to the department's executive report. The truck fell into disrepair and was scrapped in 2012.

The need for this type of vehicle, according to BPD, arose after a 2000 incident which unfolded on the east side of Bloomington and culminated in an armed standoff.

A man had entered the home of his estranged girlfriend and shot her, according to the executive report, and BPD officers who responded could not get close enough to subdue the gunman. 

An armored vehicle belonging to the Indianapolis Police Department was sent down to Bloomington. It arrived 90 minutes later and allowed CIRT officers to close in on the gunman, who ended up killing himself before he could be arrested. 

The woman who he shot, according to the executive report, died from her wounds by the time officers were able to get to her.

BPD's report lays out at least five examples of occasions when a CIRT unit used armored vehicles to either negotiate the end to armed standoffs or protect other officers and civilians who may have been caught in the crossfire. 

The report contains a section dedicated to explaining the context of police departments owning armored vehicles, particularly in response to the fear of a militarized police force in the wake of events in Ferguson, Missouri. 

BPD maintains in its report that it has successfully handled protests and other events without the use of an armored vehicle.

"Some of these events were both riotous and volatile, yet never did the department contemplate the need to deploy either a tactical unit or an armored vehicle in the same manner as the authorities in the St. Louis County region," BPD wrote in its report.

The department also explained the process behind the selection of a BearCat, as opposed to other vehicles.

The armored vehicle had to be made in the U.S., should not require special equipment for maintenance, be able to repel rifle fire and be able to hold at least eight fully equipped officers, among other parameters. 

A BearCat met these parameters, according to the report.

In addition to explaining the context of the vehicle's purchase, BPD's report included the procedures for deploying CIRT.

Each CIRT deployment has to go through a chain of command, which includes the department's chief. At any stage in the chain the request can be denied. 

The request must also pass through a risk assessment matrix, which determines courses of action based on what is needed in a specific situation. 

Warrants that receive less than 15 points do not require CIRT services. Those with 15 or more points but fewer than 24 points allow for the option of a CIRT unit, but require a supervisor to be present. Any warrant that receives 25 points requires CIRT service. 

Below is a copy of the risk assessment matrix contained in BPD's report.

The BPD Warrant Service Risk Assessment Matrix determines whether the CIRT vehicle could be used, depending on how many points the situation police are attending to represents.  Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

There will be a Bloomington Public Safety Committee meeting regarding the CIRT vehicle at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. An open house will follow the meeting at 6:30 p.m. Another open house will take place 6:30 p.m. Thursday, also at City Hall.

Jesse Naranjo

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