NH legislator introduces bill to stop small-town cops from buying tanks

New Hampshire state representative J.R. Hoell has introduced state legislation that will require police departments to get approval from citizens at a town hall meeting before they buy military-style gear. The bill, called the Police Equipment and Community Engagement (PEACE) Act, was prompted by the city of Concord buying its police department an armored assault vehicle, a decision justified in part by the police department's stated need to fight protest groups such as Occupy.

The vehicle in question, a Lenco Bearcat, costs $258,000 and was widely opposed by the people of Concord, a town of 42,000 which has experienced three murders in the past ten years. The decision was justified in part by "recent murders and armed robberies" -- but Concord had no murders in 2012 or 2013, and police responded to 20 armed robberies -- the same number of robberies as the town experienced, on average, for the preceding decade.

Above, a video from a retired USMC colonel explaining why he doesn't want his local cops driving around in tanks.

In the end, nothing the public had to say mattered. The city council approved the acquisition with an 11-4 vote. Here's how they justified the armored vehicle's existence in a town of 42,000.

[Liz] Blanchard said she was voting for the Bearcat because it was the replacement of an older piece of equipment and would only be used for defensive purposes. She said in the wake of the Newtown school shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing attack, “we do need to be defensive.”

Ward 2 Councilor Jennifer Kretovic called the issue “a huge civic discussion” but said the calls from her district in support of the Bearcat were "ten-fold." She said recent murders and armed robberies in the northern part of the city showed that it was needed.

(Unless the Concord PD collates stats separately for the "northern" part of Concord, there were zero recorded murders in Concord in 2013 [and zero in 2012 as well] and only 20 robberies, which puts "recent" criminal activity at the same level it's been at for the last half-decade.)

New Hampshire State Legislator Hopes To Push Back Against Police Militarization With New Bill [Tim Cushing/Techdirt]

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  1. In general I find this whole militarization of police to be a bad idea - be it tank or armored transport. It seems a shame to just scrap these no longer needed vehicles, but one thing people don't realize is these military vehicles usually require more and expensive maintenance. The army has a whole system with mechanics etc in place to keep them running. Podunk PD does not.

  2. Sure. it's much closer to an armored car. What it isn't is a peacetime civilian law enforcement vehicle. What it is is a hammer, seeking a nail.

  3. @Amstrad

    but instead a armored police vehicle of the type you often seen employed by SWAT teams. The question of the actual necessity for such a vehicle remains, but a tank it isn't.

    @da_Bird

    You mean... a headline on BoingBoing that's needlessly hyperbolic! Never! Google the vehicle; it's nothing at all like a tank, it's basically a heavily armored Hummer that you'd use in SWAT operations.

    "Tank" synonyms: armored vehicle, armored car, combat vehicle

    Sigh... Now, can we please drop the insulting, boorish, trite, pedantic distractions and get to the actual meat of the matter? The corrupt, wasteful and draconian militarization of our police forces?

  4. When your own citizens are so angry at you that you need a tank or APC you're doing something wrong.

  5. Just to take a step back here:

    1. The US has a monstrous, unsustainable deficit issue. You seem to routinely have massive brinkmanship style battles in your legislature, and government shutdowns and any number of other things, all rooted in debt, taxation and spending issues.
    2. The US has a bizarrely complex array of weirdly overlapping police forces (local cops, sherriffs, state troopers, DA type investigators, marshals, FBI, etc etc.). Yet you somehow manage to have relatively high crime rates and truly shocking incarceration rates.
    3. Your DHS (another wierdly overlapping police-ish bureaucracy) is now giving money, in LARGE chunks, to some of those many police forces so they can buy massively overpowered equipment they don't need?

    Who makes these Bearcat things that the DHS is so kindly granting zillions of dollars to towns to buy? What else to they make? What else is the DHS and DOD giving away at massive cost while your economy burns? Who profits from that?

    If you can't afford to educate your kids, but your micropolice departments are getting armored vehicles with grants from above, you need to ask who is making the profit.

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