For every time there have been protests against police departments’ acquisition of military-grade vehicles, many others have quietly obtained them without getting much notice. I’d wondered whether Nashua had acquired or was planning to GET a Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck, or Bearcat as it’s called for short, and it turns out that it has. I don’t know if it’s been abused yet, but its presence is a constant invitation to unnecessary escalation. When cops start acquiring increasingly violent toys, they start to think of justifications and excuses. Concord Police Chief John Duval’s characterization of Free Staters and Occupiers as potential terrorists is an example.
I’m not aware of any violent incidents in New Hampshire involving Bearcats, but there have been clear cases of overuse which had the potential to create violence. In January 2011, an attack truck and a SWAT team were sent to a home in the border town of Pelham, where a 72-year-old man had barricaded himself in, though it was reportedly used just to keep the cops warm. The cops declared that “his apparent state of mind at the time of the event prevented him from early on making the obvious rational decision to surrender.” Very likely if I saw a small military force outside my door, I’d be afraid to make that decision too.
I hate to give Lenco’s ads any publicity, but they damn the Bearcat better than anything else could. Watch this video, portraying cops in combat gear coming out of a Bearcat carrying assault weapons and gassing a building, and ask: Is this what you want to see in Concord, Nashua, Manchester, or Derry? (Embedding it is prohibited; Lenco doesn’t want people other than trigger-happy cops to see its ads.)
When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail; and when people are provided with demolition-scale hammers as tools of their work, they start seeing demolition-scale targets everywhere. The cost in some future situation could be deadly. Police are supposed to be a part of its community; it endangers them as much as everyone else if they’re put into the position of imperial stormtroopers.