By Scott Tibbs, August 24, 2015
Does the Bloomington Police Department need a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle commonly deployed by the U.S. military in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan? Apparently the BPD thinks it does, as it applied for one such vehicle in 2013, according to a well-researched article in MotherJones.com earlier this month. You can see the document itself on Document Cloud.
Many people were unnerved by the sight of police that looked more like soldiers responding to both peaceful protests and violent rioters in Ferguson, MO last summer. To be fair, Bloomington is not Ferguson. But the fact that the BPD and the Kruzan administration felt the "need" for a military vehicle for local law enforcement raises questions.
When I announced my candidacy for city council back in June, I called for "a full and complete public review on the policy for deployment of the Critical Incident Response Team." The Mother Jones article brings that issue back to the forefront, and now is the time to start thinking about this issue. A few questions to consider:
Under what circumstances is the CIRT deployed? What is the justification for using Bloomington's version of a SWAT team? How credible must that information be to use the level of force of a SWAT team?
How often is the CIRT deployed in investigations of drug use?
We know that flash-bang grenades can be highly dangerous and even fatal. People have been killed or horribly maimed by flash-bang grenades in the past. Under what circumstances are flash-bang grenades deployed in raids, and what policy governs the use of these weapons?
What kind of equipment does the CIRT have?
How many raids has CIRT conducted on an annual basis over the last decade?
Police militarization was a hot topic a year ago, and issues surrounding it are still being debated today. The people of Bloomington should have a very clear picture of the policy surrounding use of force, and there is no better time to have that discussion than during an election year.