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Standing against the militarization of police

By Scott Tibbs, February 14, 2018

This is an open letter to Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton. I was the only candidate for city council in 2015 to oppose the purchase of a mine resistant, ambush protected military vehicle for the Bloomington Police Department and I remain opposed to the militarization of local police.

Mayor Hamilton,

I wanted to express my opposition to the purchase of a "BearCat" armored military vehicle for the Bloomington Police Department. I understand why an armored vehicle might be necessary in cases of an active shooter or hostage situation, and why an armored vehicle would be necessary to evacuate civilians or people who have been wounded. These are good objectives.

That said, I find it inappropriate to be adding a vehicle designed for military use to a city police department. As you recall, I objected to the purchase of a mine-resistant, ambush protected military vehicle in 2015, and those objections are still valid. Police are not soldiers, and should not have a soldier's mentality. The reality is that outfitting police like soldiers encourages that mentality.

Radley Balko of the Washington Post has made some good points about police militarization: Even when police departments only intend to use military equipment in extreme situations, there will always be the temptation to use it in other situations - such as raids against nonviolent drug users. One of these pressures is to justify the purchase of the vehicle. Even if you have strict policies for the vehicle that limit its use, you will not be mayor forever and the next mayor could adopt a more aggressive stance.

I strongly encourage you to reconsider this decision and the implications for militarizing our local police department. I believe the Obama administration was right to reject the city's request for a MRAP in 2015, and it is disappointing that the quest for a military vehicle has continued. In the past, the BPD has used an armored bank truck for hostage and active shooter situations, which would provide similar ability to protect and evacuate without the military implications of a BearCat.

We can lead by example, and I encourage you to choose this option instead.