Concord, NH, is a nice, peaceful city. It has bookstores, cafés, and perhaps the most accessible state legislature in the country. Police Chief John Duval, however, sees it as a city about to explode with terrorist violence. In order to protect Concord from this deadly threat, he’s asked Homeland Security to provide Concord with a Lenco Bearcat armored vehicle. Don’t think of the name as a cute sports mascot. It stands for “Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck.” It’s a military-grade vehicle designed for violent confrontation. It carries gun ports, and a battering ram is an option. Lenco’s ads emphasize its paramilitary uses.
|The future of Concord?|
What is the threat which Duval fears? According to the application he submitted, the vehicle is intended to take on the threat of Occupy, a bumbling anti-minority (they characterize their opponents at “the 1%”) sit-in group, and the Free State Project, which encourages liberty-loving people to move to New Hampshire. Neither of these groups has any record of violence. Duval’s move reeks of intent to intimidate political groups he doesn’t like.
According to an article in Mother Jones, Duval has waffled under pressure but hasn’t apologized for the smears.
“I wish I would have worded things different in retrospect,” he says. “I understand why their eyebrows are raised about that.” He chalks up the wording to the limitations of writing a detailed proposal in only three pages and says it was meant to refer to the “unpredictable nature of unpredictable people who attach themselves to otherwise lawful situations.”
If Duval is incapable of writing a coherent three-page proposal that doesn’t come off as paranoid raving, that doesn’t say much for his qualifications for the job. Is he now just saying that people are unpredictable? If so, why name any specific group? If there’s a group that’s unpredictable and dangerous, it’s the one that is looking for heavy armament in response to imaginary dangers.
When police departments acquire heavy armament, they start thinking of ways to use it. Look at SWAT teams. Originally designed for highly explosive situations, they now routinely smash in the doors of non-violent drug users (or people mistaken for them). Perhaps at first Duval will just roll out the Bearcat at political events, as a veiled threat. That’s bad enough already. But then there may come a day when there’s a situation which genuinely needs police action but not blazing guns and buildings. Duval might say, “Hey, these are ‘unpredictable people,’ and this is the chance to see what the Bearcat can do!” A building might be smashed into rubble and burn. Neighbors might be injured or die.
Homeland Security deserves a large chunk of blame for handing these deadly toys out. If Duval hadn’t been tempted, maybe he wouldn’t have started labeling dissidents as potential terrorists. Most cops are good people, but if they get carried away with power, they may do frightening things.