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The Indiana Daily Student


Armored truck, source of debate and protest, arrives in Bloomington

Lenco Beartcat

After months of public debate, discussion and protest, the long-awaited armored truck, a Lenco BearCat, has arrived and is ready for service with the Bloomington Police Department.

After spending July 9 undergoing some last decal work, the truck arrived for a show and tell event at the Switchyard Park Operations Building at 1611 S. Rogers St. on July 10.

The steely gray exterior of the truck, combined with the spacious, matte black interior and the large "RESCUE" decal on the side, stand in stark contrast to early suggestions by a Monroe County Commissioner to paint the truck pink and to keep it "funky."

Armored Door, BPD Crest
Bloomington Police Department Chief Mike Diekhoff speaks with an attendee at the official unveiling of BPD’s new armored vehicle July 10 in the Switchyard Park Operations building.  Matt Begala

BPD Lt. Mick Williams, the Critical Incident Response Team commander, said he's pretty happy with the vehicle now that it's finally arrived.

"It makes me feel a lot better about sending guys out," Williams said.

Williams has also spent time walking different community members and city leaders through some of the truck's features. As many as 10-12 officers can stay in the vehicle comfortably, with room for more. Other features include a bulletproof roof hatch that is able to rotate, allowing officers to conduct rescue operations. 

Other important aspects for Williams are the numerous gunports around the vehicle. 

While technically they are gunports, Williams said, he preferred to call them 'pull throughs,' because he and his team would be able to pull cameras through those areas without risking their lives.

Mayor John Hamilton and BPD Chief Mike Diekhoff also hopped inside the vehicle to take a look at a few of the armored truck's main features. While looking around, Hamilton said he hopes the vehicle never needs to be used, but he's glad the city has the vehicle to keep people safe.

Mayor John Hamilton, Lenco Bearcat
Mayor John Hamilton arrives at the first public viewing of the Bloomington Police Department’s new armored vehicle July 10 in the Switchyard Operations building.  Matt Begala

While Hamilton said there have been other armored vehicles that have been misused in other cities nationwide, he said he's confident in the transparent way the city has gone about the purhcase and said the process will benefit everyone.

Williams agreed, saying Hamilton had done a good job of balancing the different factors that came up in debate, and that the citizens of Bloomington have a right to ask questions about the BearCat.

"For citizens to ask questions is how government works," Williams said.

Diekhoff also mentioned that in his conversations with community members, most people seemed understanding, now that they got to see it.

"It seems pretty no-nonsense," Diekhoff said.

While city officials and officers were optimistic about the vehicle, Vauhxx Booker of Bloomington’s Black Lives Matter also was at the event and was more skeptical. He called the vehicle "foreboding." 

"This is a weapon you could take into a warzone," Booker said.

Vauhxx Booker
Vauhxx Booker of Bloomington’s Black Lives Matter talks about the armored vehicle at its public unveiling July 10 in the Switchyard Operations building. Booker has been a vocal critic of the decision to purchase the armored vehicle.  Matt Begala

Booker went on to critique the vehicle and BPD's policing efforts in general, saying he plans to make this an opportunity to take a systematic look at the police department and how officers do their jobs.

The Bloomington Board of Public Safety and the Bloomington City Council recently passed resolutions about the armored vehicle, limiting how it might be used to alleviate concerns like Booker's.  

The armored vehicle won't be used for crowd control dealing with public demonstrations. 

It will not be equipped with firearms, a water cannon or any device for launching projectiles. 

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