A lively debate was had on social media yesterday, centering around Bloomington’s proposed purchase of an armored military vehicle for its police department. Me? I’m four-square against it, mainly because I detest the militarization of the police and because, with tyranny creeping up on us not only in this holy land but around the world, we don’t need big metal reminders that the state is too often prone to be both mighty and horrible.
That said, City Council member Susan Sandberg tried to explain why this town might need what is essentially a police tank. Generally, I agree with Susan on positions both local and national. I wondered why she and I diverge in this particular case.
So I tried to put myself in her shoes. Perhaps this is what happened. She was given arguments, presumably by police chief Mike Diekhoff, that held the tank to be a necessary protection for officers responding to, say, a stand-off near the IU campus. Maybe a mad gunman is holding a number of hostages. Maybe the gunman is armed with automatic weapons. Maybe he’s got dynamite strapped around his waist. The only way officers can safely get near the scene of the hostage-taking is in such a vehicle as the Lenco BearCat, the one Diekhoff wants the city to buy for his force.
Now let’s suppose Susan and her council colleagues think, as I do, that the city shouldn’t obtain the tank and they vote the proposal down. But, lo and behold, that hostage situation actually does arise not much later. And, heaven forbid, a Bloomington police officer gets shot and dies.
I can imagine Susan and the rest of the council never being able to sleep at night for the rest of their lives for the guilt they feel.
It could happen, couldn’t it?
Even though I remain steadfastly opposed to the purchase of the armored vehicle, I can understand why someone in a decision-making position might not be so certain as I am.
Mike, did you attend the BPD briefing today? What a disservice to describe this public safety vehicle as a military tank! Lord have mercy, it is a bullet-proof, armored (not armed) vehicle. It will look like a big sturdy truck, not a tank! It is manufactured by Lenco BearCat, but it will NOT look like this intimidating picture that folks keep wanting to spread around, even in the HT. Thank you for trying to walk in my shoes, but if you knew what I know, it wouldn’t be that hard to understand. It is about public safety in the horrid case of an armed standoff. Nobody wants to see any of that, but…these incidents happen, with more frequency than any of us are comfortable with. This vehicle is to protect lives, both of first responders and of innocent victims in harms way when bullets start to fly. God forbid, but they do. Yes, even in fair, compassionate, safe and civil Bloomington.
I believe it will be armed when used for an action. Indeed I believe it has many strategically placed openings for arms. No amount of labeling manipulation changes this piece equipment from a move towards militarization of the police.
Further, I am always suspicious when elected persons reduce their argument to the famous “if you know what I know.” I remember vividly the Johnson Administration, the Nixon Administration, the Bushes, and Clinton Administration using this anti-democratic defense. It is really not to deep to know that military type equipment will be better protective than that used traditionally by police. The issue, of which I know as much as Ms. Sandberg, is at what price to our definition of our community.