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Decision day for controversial armored truck approaches



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Mayor John Hamilton listens as Jada Bee from the Black Lives Matter movement discusses her beliefs on the Bloomington Police Department's purchase of an armored vehicle. The Bloomington City Council met with Hamilton and Bloomington residents to discuss their concerns Tuesday, Feb. 27.  Ty Vinson Buy Photos

Public comment on the Bloomington's plan to purchase an armored vehicle will end 5 p.m. Friday.

Mayor John Hamilton is slated to release his decision on the widely-debated Lenco BearCat G2 purchase by the end of the month. 

Bloomington waged a war it didn’t see coming when it signed the contracts for a new $225,000 armored vehicle.

City Director of Public Engagement Mary Catherine Carmichael said the city will likely not lose all of the money if Hamilton chooses to cancel the purchase. It is unclear how much would be lost.

This purchase was announced at a quiet press conference in the Bloomington Police Station on Feb. 6 along with a laundry list of other new equipment.

Black Lives Matter Bloomington has been an avid opponent of the purchase since that announcement.

“It will be a shame to lose that money,” BLM Bloomington’s leader, Vauhxx Booker said. “It would be a greater shame to abuse the public trust.”

City officials initially said the purchase was complete, contracts were signed and there was no going back. That message soon changed.

Emails and phone calls poured into the mayor’s office, demanding answers.

A public comment session scheduled the week after the announcement was the first of many. 

Bloomington Police Department Chief Mike Diekhoff said the vehicle would only be used in high risk situations to protect the city’s Critical Incident Response Team. Community members accused the police of militarization. 

He said BPD could have bought a retired military vehicle for much less, but chose to buy this model specifically because it is less militaristic.

Hamilton’s annual State of the City address was cut short last month by about 70 BLM protesters asking for answers about the purchase.

Following the State of the City shutdown, the mayor arranged for a series of five public comment sessions. He promised to listen to concerns.

BLM Bloomington released a list of demands for the city, including a call for a halt to the purchase.

Citizens wanted to know the details of the truck. The city released documents explaining the need for the truck on its website.

The city accepted phone calls, emails, a Google form and other forms of comment on the purchase.

Some public comment meetings were rambunctious and full. Some were quiet and sparsely attended. Booker called one a publicity stunt

BLM will be ramping up its protest of the vehicle this week, Booker said. The group continues to contend the purchase of the vehicle is not backed by data.

Carmichael said the city has been compiling comments from the public and will give them all to the mayor on Friday. She was uncertain whether he’d been reviewing the comments as they came in.

She said Hamilton will talk to citizens and experts and review data before he makes his final decision.

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