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N.H. rep introduces bill that would ban BearCats in communities statewide

  •  The Concord Police Department submitted a federal grant application for a BearCat armored law enforcement vehicle, like this one being used in Nashville, Tenn.

    The Concord Police Department submitted a federal grant application for a BearCat armored law enforcement vehicle, like this one being used in Nashville, Tenn.

  • JR Hoell

    JR Hoell

  •  The Concord Police Department submitted a federal grant application for a BearCat armored law enforcement vehicle, like this one being used in Nashville, Tenn.
  • JR Hoell

If Dunbarton Rep. JR Hoell has his way, no New Hampshire community will face the same BearCat controversy that overtook Concord last fall. That’s because, under a bill he’s introduced, towns and cities statewide would be prohibited from having a BearCat or anything like it.

“At the end of the day, we have a law enforcement agency that is more militarized than we intended,” Hoell, a Republican, told a House committee yesterday during a hearing on his bill.

Hoell introduced the bill partly in response to the Concord City Council’s vote to accept a $258,000 federal grant to purchase a BearCat last fall after months of controversy and a petition signed by 1,500 people opposing the vehicle. Opponents’ chief concerns were what they saw as the militarization of the police department and fears that the vehicle would be used against peaceful citizens. (In his application for the vehicle, former police chief John Duval referenced the Free State Project as a dangerous movement, but he later apologized for that comment.)

Concord’s BearCat was supposed to arrive this month, but it has been delayed, and the police department isn’t sure when it will arrive, Lt. Timothy O’Malley said yesterday.

None of the activists who flooded the Concord City Council’s public hearings on the BearCat last year came to yesterday’s hearing. Only Hoell testified in favor of the bill, while Keene’s police chief and a state Department of Safety official testified against it.

Specifically, Hoell’s bill would prohibit state agencies and municipalities from acquiring, purchasing or accepting any military-style equipment, including vehicles and weapons, that aren’t available on an open national commercial market. The National Guard would be exempt from this.

Hoell is introducing the bill because he said he thinks law enforcement is moving in the wrong direction and should focus more on community building than intimidation. He also said money spent on military-style equipment could be used in better ways.

Several members of the House Executive Departments and Administration committee said the bill appeared to take away local control. Rep. Mary Nelson, a Nashua Democrat, asked Hoell what he sees as the appropriate role of the Legislature in telling communities how to spend their money.

“The role of the state, in this case, is to make sure the citizens have the best law enforcement and not one that’s overly militarized,” said Hoell, who added that he is in favor of local control.

Beyond BearCats, Hoell said the bill includes any fully automatic firearms that can’t be bought on the commercial market. In response to a question from Rep. Frank Byron, a Litchfield Republican, Hoell said he’s concerned about combative equipment, not defense equipment, such as bulletproof vests.

But Kenneth Meola, Keene’s police chief, told the committee that bulletproof vests and most police cruisers do not protect officers from rifle fire. Keene acquired a BearCat two years ago. It’s hard to prove the worth of these types of vehicles until a crisis occurs, Meola said, and it’s the responsibility of law enforcement to be prepared for whatever incidents may occur.

Police departments that do have BearCat vehicles or other similar equipment have used them effectively and responsibly, he said, and have clearly defined policies for use.

“I hope that we never have to use them, but in the respect that we’re tasked with providing (public safety) for our communities, we have to be thinking ahead, we have to have game plans . . . for things that we think might happen, and be prepared to respond to them,” Meola said.

He also said Keene’s BearCat hasn’t required any maintenance in two years, and the police department has spent only $185 in gas for the vehicle.

Kevin O’Brien, chief of policy and planning for the Department of Safety, also testified in opposition to the bill, saying the public safety landscape has changed greatly and that getting this type of equipment is a local control issue.

“This would impact state and local control of their own destiny and their own agencies,” he said.

The committee will not vote on the bill for several weeks, then it will go before the House with the committee’s recommendation.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Legacy Comments54

Unfortunately, the Tea Party, to their detriment, has been taken over by the religious right zealots. The Free Staters, which are a completely different group, with a different philosophy, believe in less government interference and regulation and are not religious. Has government gotten out of control? Yes!!!! I grew up in Concord, and back then, the entire state government was housed in the $tate Hou$e or the $tate Hou$e annex, with the DOT complex near where the bus station is now and Fish and Game across the street. . Now Look at it! Hazen Drive, the old $tate Hospital, and off RT 106, where DOT and the Fire Marshall is today. Do we have too much government? Yes we do! And we all pay for it!

JR Hoell is a scary dangerous individual from all I can gather. He has come out and said that "During an interview with conservative podcast Granite Grok's GrokTalk on Saturday, New Hampshire state Rep. J.R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton) suggested that it may some day be necessary to use "firearms and ammo" against the government if its policies continue to be shaped by elected officials like former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.)." This to me goes past personal freedoms and into the realm of domestic terrorism. This man, a term I use very loosely, advocates arming everyone thru his NH Firearms Coalition ties, except the police. Dunbarton, what were you thinking when you elected this nut.

The gentlemen who did the original tea party, the signers of the declaration of independence... All examples of what you now label 'dometic terrorism' Then they were called patriots, today we call them terrorists? We have a constitutional right to reform out government, actually two. Non-Violent, and violent. I personally prefer the non-violent approach, but there is a strong likelihood that they will not listen to the will of the people, they ought to be removed by the people, with force if needed. That is what our forefathers intended for the governance of our country.

We have taxation with representation, you may not like it, but we have it so forget about the original TP's. To compare them to today's is an insult. Usurpers tried to destroy the country in 1861 for their own selfish reasons. That is not what our forefathers intended no matter how narrowly you choose to interpret the Constitution. Our form of government was new to the world in when the constitution was adopted in 1787 and their concern to protect our rights was paramount. You may not like things but that is why we have free elections, technically. Just because some group doesn't get their way is not grounds for revolution, our fore fathers never envisioned anarchy as a way of government COMPROMISE is the foundation of our country, we seem to have forgotten that. As long as we hold free elections there is no scenario that would allow for revolution. What police state are you referring. Also, no signer of the Constitution participated in the Boston Tea Party according to any known record. Paul Revere by all accounts was the most memorable participant. Boy we need to do better teaching American History.

Two comments. First and foremost we do live in a police state. The NSA is spying on our own citizens, there are drones overhead even here in NH, the police want license plate scanning software, there are cameras on every corner of major cities, the IRS targets groups politically, radar is used but radar detectors are not allowed, police recruit macho, high and tight authority complex candidates. The protect and serve mission is now harrass and intimidate. Most police are traffic cops and the paraphenalia they wear is intimidating. It is no wonder that they want a Bearcatt in every department, macho boys and their toys. Now to you point of anarchy think about a President who has a pen and cell phone and is threatening to make law if the Congress won't react and pass laws that he that anarchy or a coup? Answer honestly, not just based on the fact that you support the things that the president wants to do.

If you are advocating revolution, maybe there is a need for a Bearcat. The tea party is a small but vocal part of the Republican Party. I do not know where you get this "will of the people". I said it before and I will say it again, in spite of the so called 15,000 Concord residents who signed the petition against the Bearcat, everyone of the councilors that voted to get it were voted back into office. That is the "will of the people."

The Tea Party is not "small", it may be as large as those people who claim that they are "progressive". No one really knows for sure as they are not organized.

For the heck of it, I actually looked up that link. I think it might be interesting for people not familiar with it (even people on the opposite side of me) to check it out on Wikipedia. And not the Indian city but the news site.

GraniteGrok is a venue for the far-right. They call themselves libertarians, but their notions of "liberty" are highly constrained, limited, and self-serving, as is their grasp of American history. Most, like Hoell, seem to have a fetish about guns, and a strongly developed sense of paranoia. They imagine themselves super-patriots, but if they had their druthers, they'd be the jack-booted thugs they claim the government is. They regularly fantasize about and see conspiracies against their notions of "freedom": UN conspiracies, climate science conspiracies, vaccine conspiracies, education conspiracies in Common Core and IB, Obama as a socialist and secret Muslim/ non-citizen. Anyone who dares think differently than they do is labelled a 'socialist' at the very least.

The point of the story is not the Bearcat, it is the House Legislature interfering in a town's local decisions.

If Keene only spent $185 on fuel, they only filled once, considering the price of fuel under Obummer. When he took office it was $1.80. That aside, it's painted like a tank. On the other hand, it's the shape of a Brink's truck, so maybe it could be used to take all the parking meter money and fine$ to the bank.

"Free the State" what a colossal arrogant name. I am sure this state was pretty free before you all decided to move here. As a matter of fact maybe you have freed us enough and you can move on now. Canada looks like it could use some changes. Maybe they would like to get rid of their socialized medicine and Toronto Bob looks like your kind of people.

When have we had a situation in NH where we have needed one of these vehicles? Moreover, this is more to protect the police than others, so why not a tank? It would be much safer. The thought that "free staters" or "occupy" folks are a threat to anyone in NH is pure silliness. It is the equivalent of asking for a high powered laser just in case aliens from outer space invade NH. This is more about police boys and their authority complexes and having toys. The role of police is to 'protect and serve' not 'harrass and intimidate'. Police today a little more than traffic cops in NH, enhancing revenue. The gear they wear is absurd and their demeanor is always intimidating. But they do add to the economic health, at least in the donut industry.

I agree with you to a point. But I think you may be just a bit harsh. If there were an archive you would find I thought the whole concept of having a Bearcat was ludicrous. Where I have my issues is with these people who fear the police taking over is a real problem. I have had issues with police attitude in the past but never to the point that I feared for my country.

"By providing police with weapons and tactics made for war, we run the risk of encouraging the police to act as though they are at war with the very communities that they are supposed to be protecting and serving." Please go to the window and open the window shade and take a good look naysayers. We have a war on drugs going on under our noses and it leads one to ponder why the house-member from Dunbarton has this on his agenda. He is the first one to tell us about the suppression of firearms to the people and about the "live free or die" state, but he doesn't believe that the rest of the community is quite as knowledgeable about our own protection to fight back as he is. Question the finger pointers folks...

Yes we do have a war on drugs and the pot heads seem to winning this one with support from our legislature.

I heard Hoell and Sue Olsen on The Pulse this morning talking about being sick of Democrats using New Hampshire as a "petri dish" for their experiments with Progressivism. Come to think of it . . . isn't that exactly what the "Free State Project" is using New Hampshire for???

I think I know how the Indians felt when they saw another wagon train of white people coming to take over their land.

More than likely you were there. Is the wagon still in the back yard patty or was it sold at auction.

If that is some kind of personal attack on my age it is really very rude, but it completely confirms my opinion of you.

For someone who seems to value your privacy so much, it is hypocritical to spend time trying to invade mine.

What are you talking about. My point was that unless you lived in the covered wagon days, you would never know what Native Americans thought. You certainly love to give it but you then think that people are giving it back and that is an issue for you. What the heck??

"More than likely you were there". Really? How was a personal snide remark on my age giving it back to me? How does that make you right in any discussion? Nice to see how political correct you are, do you feel that way about the Washington Redskins?

Oh for god's sake, did you read my explanation. Daily you come on here and zing people, I was referring to the fact that you could not have been there and therefore could not have known what native americans thought. I am 1/32 Abernaki, I am not offended by the Washington Redskins and guess what? Polls show that 90% of the native americans are not offended either. Political correctness has run amok and that is no snyde statement, that is the truth.

Rep Hoell must be oblivious to the dangers faced by police SWAT teams when dealing with barricaded subjects, hostage situations, active shooters and high risk warrants. All have the potential for violence involving high powered rifles that might threaten the lives of police as well as civilians. A law to prohibit police from approaching these situations with an armored vehicle is ludicrous and callous. The BearCat is not a military vehicle; it is a purpose built police response & rescue vehicle. It is not sold commercially because its armor capabilities should not be used by the bad guys against police. Is that so hard to comprehend? Rep Hoell doesn’t seem to understand the nature of police work. Perhaps he should intern at a police department and respond to the next callout where a barricaded gunman is shooting a rifle out a second story window while neighbors need to be evacuated from their homes to avoid being inadvertently shot. It just might change his perspective on the effectiveness of a BearCat. It is sad and ironic that police must defend their right to protect their own lives in order to protect & serve the rights of the citizenry. We owe them at least that much.

History shows that there are very few of the incidents you cite in New Hampshire. So few, in fact, I can't think of one. Couple this with the fact that none of my friends can remember the last time a police shooting in NH was deemed "unjustified" and a lot of your fellow citizens are ill at ease giving police paramilitary equipment. I understand the nature of police work to be protect and serve citizens, not be prepared for World War III. Using your logic, we should provide police with lasers just in case of alien invasion.

Surplus military Peacekeeper trucks are available to police departments for the asking. But no, getting one and spending the money needed to refurbish and upgrade it for our community police departments isn't good enough. Has to be $250K+ BearCat vehicles instead. Nobody seems to have a problem that the company that makes the BearCat having full time, professional grant writers on their staff to "assist" applying for the HS funds needed. In Ohio, one community's police department purchased an underwater robotic video system as a matter of keeping secure from terrorists, using HS grant money. "Just in case" doesn't follow the criteria set out in the doctrine of the program. But again, nobody seems to care.

You are correct, first time I have agreed with you.

Rep Hoell must be oblivious to the dangers faced by police SWAT teams. Barricaded subjects, hostage situations, active shooters, and high risk warrants typically involve high powered rifles. Often times innocent civilians need to be evacuated or rescued so that they are kept out of harm's way. To think that the task of responding to these life threatening situations can be safely accomplished without the protection of an armored vehicle is insensitive and callous. Not only to police, but to the citizenry at large. Perhaps Rep Hoell should go on a call-out with a SWAT Team the next time someone in a house starts shooting their .308 rifle out a second story window and see how he'd approach the subject, evacuate the neighbors, take the suspect into custody and bring the situation to a peaceful conclusion. It is both ironic and sad that police not only have to defend the public by putting their lives on the line--but they also have to defend their right to protect their own lives for doing so. Before you criticize police, you might want to walk a mile in their shoes.

How is this local control when it's paid for by the federal government? If the local tax payers had to front the bill, would they still purchase? I think not.

My point. The local taxpayers have a choice to purchase or receive a grant Or decline on getting any type of equipment. It's up to them, Not the NH House.

First of all we all federal tax payers. Second some cities have a high drug and violence problem, Nashua and Manchester for instance. If their citizens want it, the legislature is taking away local control by banning it. Thirdly for all the so called opposition to the Bearcat in Concord and threats of wait to the next election not one councilor was defeated nor a anti bearcat councilor elected. Elections are local control. not the paranoid fear of Free Staters.

I mean to say the Free Staters' paranoid fear that somehow their community and police are someday going to turn the Bearcat on them. I guess if they can get them altogether in one place, maybe at their annual Free Staters' picnic. Where everyone has to bring their own food cause they don't believe in sharing anything.

Free Stater's aren't necessarily paranoid when former Chief Duval indicated that they akin to domestic terrorists. I, for one, did not appreciate being called one. I'm a peaceful person. Always have been, always will be.

When I first read this bill, I was all for it. Then I read in another article, that Allenstown wants to pass a law banning roosters from their downtown. If that bill passes, they just might need a BearCat.

NH State Rep. Hoell's answer is to have more top down government "nanny state" what local citizens control. If a town or city dosen't want equipment let them decide.

How so? He doesn't want to control the people. The town isn't paying for the equipment. If you want to talk local control, lets get serious. The feds are paying for it. If the town or city wants it, let them pay for it.

So much for local control. Funny how the Republicans don't like the government interfering until THEY want the government interfering.

Local control would be the towns and city paying for the tank with their own money. We don't have that because the "federal" government is interfering. Funny how democrats don't have the ability to think a local thought.

Free the state from what? Imagine the unmitigated gall or the federal government forcing Concord to take it. Talk about interfering. Tome rethink if you really understand the concept of local control. I'll have to remember this the next tome the feds try and interfere by providing disaster resistance. If we should be free of anything - it should be from free-sfaters.

As a law and order Republican, I support Mr. Hoell. These machines of war are designed to intimidate the public and have no place in our state. It may be time for law enforcement to take a refresher course in diffusing crisis situations, not escalating them. "By providing police with weapons and tactics made for war, we run the risk of encouraging the police to act as though they are at war with the very communities that they are supposed to be protecting and serving. But that's not all. Militarizing the police can also undermine public safety. Law enforcement works when the people trust the police; would you trust a police officer driving a tank through your town?" When you pull a dogs collar tight it makes him more aggressive

Lets clear up one thing first. The Bearcat is not a machine of war, it's a armored car that looks like an SUV. It's sole purpose is to transport people safely. It's made in Mass for both law enforcement and military uses. Different models for different purposes. No Concord didn't need one in my opinion, not because the local police were going to take over the state but because it was a waste of money pure and simple. Having been through the sixties and all the protests, still don't understand this paranoia that some have regarding this fear of police becoming a military force. I just don't see what justifies this point of view at all. I understand lunatic right wingers, but this is a complete mystery - did I miss a memo????

The sad thing is the hippie's from the 60's are now in power and are just gleeful with the "Nixonian power" they have. God forbid when the bearcats turn against our GLBT friends...or other dee

Say What? Hippies have 'Nixonian" power? ?Hippies did not like war or Nixon and since I am of that time they are pretty old now. And you are saying police are going to turn on gays? A lot of mixed up messages there.

My point is today it is the free staters who are deemed capable of causing violence (hence the original request for the bearcat, which has since been redacted), Tomorrow it will be another group.

One more time s-l-o-w-l-y. It is an armored car not a weapon and you are being paranoid.

The police don't need it but why not bullet proof glass or bullet proof cars or steel uniforms. Oh, I guess when all you do is use a radar unit on the Heights that we do need an armored vehicle.

The sad thing is the hippies from the 1960's are gleeful with all the Nixonian" power they have. God forbid when the bearcats turn against our GLBT friends or other deemed "non desirable s" in the future...

Thus the turret.

Tourette...real classy attack

My apologies for Turret...not Tourette

No fear of the police? In NH, when was the last time our AG's office determined a police shooting was not proper? Hint: NEVER!! This, despite the fact that citizens have been shot in their cars while "boxed in" by police vehicles and had no weapons. Let's not forget the "welfare call" in Henniker that resulted in TWO police officers emptying their pistols, approx 34 shots, into a citizen that was mentally ill. How about the killing by police of an "armed drug dealer" in Weare who had neither a weapon nor drugs in his possession? All of these shootings were deemed "justified." Don't fear our AG or the police yet?

After seeing JR Hoells' name on this bill I just had to see what this element of the lunatic fringe was up to this time. I was not disappointed as usual. Again we have yet another example of twisted logic. While I didn't support the Concord Bearcat in any sense of the term this bill is truly disturbing for what it implies. I simply don't buy into the whole argument that we must fear our police from getting too strong. The if I can't have them that they can't either is not a sound reason. For someone to be fiercely pro gun pounding his chest why people need military style weapons for personal protection, to turn around with a straight face and propose this is just shameless at best.

Keene has spent $185 on gas in 2 years. Thus illustrating the complete lack of need of such a vehicle. They haven't done any maintenance on it, which should set off alarm to the taxpayer. Will the Keene BearCat sit and rot because of a lack of upkeep? Will it start if some terrorists show up at the pumpkin festival? The "just in case" justification used by the Keene police chief could equally be applied to every police department in the country, as a reason to buy a BearCat. Awesome. Maybe we should think of equipping them all with planes or helicopters too, just in case. I don't think a legislative bill is the answer to this, instead I think the HS program that funds these things should be ended.

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