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]