Growing Unease Over Departments' Use Of Vehicles and Gear Designed for Battle
By JENNIFER LEVITZ CONNECT
Updated Feb. 6, 2014 8:40 p.m. ET
Residents in some towns have begun standing up to the large armored vehicles that local police departments are receiving from the federal government.
Six-figure grants from the Department of Homeland Security have been funding BearCats and other heavily fortified vehicles in towns and cities nationwide since soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Beginning last summer, the government also has handed out 200 surplus vehicles built to withstand mines and bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is considering requests from 750 more communities.
Most police and citizens welcome the extra protection, saying recent mass shootings show any local force could find itself facing an extremely violent or dangerous situation. But antipathy has grown in some pockets of the country—from New York to Ohio to California—which see the machines as symbols of government waste and a militarization of law enforcement, including the growth of SWAT teams and high-tech gadgets in recent decades.
In libertarian-leaning New Hampshire, a state lawmaker just introduced a bill that would ban municipalities from accepting military-style vehicles without approval from voters. That came in response to the Concord City Council's vote in the fall to accept a $258,000 federal grant to buy a BearCat, despite intense opposition from citizens who submitted a 1,500-signature petition and rallied outside City Hall holding signs that said, "More Mayberry, Less Fallujah" and "Thanks But No Tanks!"