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Editorial: Does city need a BearCat? Think carefully, please

New Hampshire is regularly named among the safest states in the nation. Its capital, Concord, has all the ills of any city in America but, for the most part, in miniature. It, too, has been cited as a safe place to live. So even if it comes as a gift from federal taxpayers, does the city need a $260,000 military-style BearCat armored personnel carrier? The city council should think carefully before accepting this gift because psychologically the BearCat could prove to be a Trojan horse.

Concord police Chief John Duval is right when he says that in some situations the vehicle, whose armor can stop a .50-caliber battle round, could save police officers’ lives. It would allow officers to approach close enough to an armed person for a negotiator to attempt to defuse the situation and avoid violence. All of this is to the good, but there is a downside to the increasing militarization of America’s police forces. One is the risk that increasing the fighting capacity of police officers in the name of homeland security or the failed war on drugs will make officers think more like soldiers and less like public servants. It could increase the us-versus-them mentality that’s inevitable when one group’s job is to enforce laws and the other’s is to avoid breaking them.

Last week in The Wall Street Journal, Radley Balko, author of The Rise of the Warrior Cop, warned of the dangers inherent in militarizing domestic law enforcement. Among them is the change in culture, away from community policing and toward a tendency to see lawbreakers and potential lawbreakers as the enemy.

Police officers in an armored vehicle is the opposite of community policing – think the cop on the beat and police on bicycles. While we can’t imagine that Concord’s police would use the BearCat in other than extraordinary situations, the sight of it rolling down the street won’t make citizens feel safer. It will make them feel like residents in an occupied country.

Such perceptions are important. They affect a community’s sense of place. And the police presence in Concord, thanks to the city’s focus on enforcing traffic laws more stringently, is already considerable. A police officer on foot or on a bike makes residents feel safe. Police cars parked to ambush traffic violators make people glance nervously at the speedometer and cross their fingers. Both are necessary, but the feel of a city can be determined by which one is emphasized.

The makers of armored vehicles and other gear originally designed for war have a stake in the increased militarization of America’s domestic police force. Members of Congress, who dare not risk being thought soft on crime, derelict in matters of homeland security or insensitive to the safety of members of law enforcement, approve billions of dollars in grants to communities for gear like the BearCat.

In some places, the power and strength of the armored vehicles and other military-grade equipment has been blamed for causing the police to overreact. In others the equipment has saved lives. But in no place, we believe, do citizens feel safer because their local police force has equipment meant for war and personnel trained to use it. If the Concord City Council decides to equip the police force with a BearCat, it should closely monitor its use and its effect on the attitude of law enforcement.

Legacy Comments12

Guess how many crimes have been committed with .50 cal. weapons in the U.S? The answer is 0. Doc

Now seriously, how many fully-rigged 4x4 pickup trucks could this buy? 5? 6? Trucks that could carry just as many cops, trucks that wouldn't sink in the mud, trucks with winches and tow cables and all the things needed during ice storms and floods, and other times when actual citizens are in actual danger? The absurdity of "protecting police" is that such times the police are the safest of all. What about when CITIZENS are in danger?

If the BearCat saves one child, one L.E. officer, then it has paid for itself. Let it be known I am not a liberal, by any stretch.

Both the NH State Police and the Central NH Special Response Team, a police SWAT team based in Concord, already have armored trucks. Just how many of these toys do we need in Concord?

Haven't needed one in the past...What has changed?

It's a strange day indeed when Bob Washburn and the Concord Monitor agree on anything. And I'll chime in here and agree with both and add my agreement to Bruce Currie's comments. The National Guard should be the go to organization for an extraordinary event that would require the police to utilize an armored vechicle. I also agree with the comments that the militarization of the police appears to do little in curbing crime. While it is important to have a police force that can protect the community, it is also important to remember the role of the police force. It is a dual role to serve and protect, not to protect and intimidate. I have always found the Concord Police department to be highly professional and effective without having to resort to militaristic or intimidating tactics. If there are times that a vechilce like the Bearcat are necessary then the city should work with the National Guard to ensure that one is available. Too much damage will be done to the image of our police department by arming them with a tank - Allan Herschlag

bruce, (Saints preserve us), I agree with your first sentence. I military and its system & procedures are for hostile forces, not protecting citizens with an innocent until proven guilty philosophy. Now there is greater shift to guilty until proven innocent methods. Citizens and children are handcuffed w/o cause. Swarms if police using military tactics and weapons are being used inappropriately and too frequently. I know our police face societies worst more than the rest of us but if every police pull requires blinding lights (hurts), multiple cruisers and officers - perhaps the field has become too fearsome for some officers. when people are subjugated, cuffed, maced, their property broken and pets killed - for increasing "wrong house" incidents - the situation scream for rapid reevaluation. The police and citizens need each other but when citizens are wrongly treated like criminals - trust is broken. Actions speak louder than words . If a person acts like thug and treats you like a criminal - why would anybody trust them and not return the hostility. As to "gun fetish" and similar soc/left mantras - as long as efforts to disarm citizens continues - these and other abuses will increase (please see texts on world history). .

I asked myself the same question when I read the original article. The militarization of society continues, as a legacy of the flawed and mis-guided "War on Terror" and our increasing fetishization of guns and violence over the past 3 decades. While it might be considered "nice to have" for certain eventualities, I'd like to think those are sufficiently remote in Concord that the BearCat is unnecessary. In a worst case scenario, though there may be legal strictures against it, Concord's National Guard armory must have something available at a moment's notice that could function in any situation envisioned for the BearCat.

100% caused by the rise of nanny state liberalism

Fail. Do facts ever come into play before you post? In fact, do you even actually read things before you respond with a seemingly automatic statement decrying liberals and liberalism? Is there any reason anyone should take anything you say seriously?

Good question. Short answer: No.

He said he wasn't going to post anymore and he was out of here.... oh well, can't trust a conservative poster....

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