Armored vehicles are usually a military toy, or in some larger cities, a part of a SWAT unit. Massive metropolitan areas with high populations tend to see these types of vehicles in their police inventory, but the crime rates and violence justifies the need for such vehicles. The unveiling of a huge armored vehicle named Bearcat (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck) was a huge shock and got the heat flowing towards the police department.
In the department’s defense, they have stated that the Bearcat is strictly a defensive vehicle, in case there is a threat with an armed suspect. That is perfectly fine, but the Bearcat is equipped with bulletproof armor, a hatch roof, a powerful diesel engine and four wheel off road ‘package’ that was added onto the vehicle, making it $248.537. Bozeman is a small town and an intimidating vehicle like that is usually used in high risk hostage situations, riots or armed threats. According to a recent Bozeman Daily Chronicle article, the last time there was any threat in Bozeman that involved guns was during the Super Bowl and that was one man with one gun. The police department did say that this vehicle would have helped, but theytook care of the issue without the Bearcat with no casualties. So is the armored, $250K vehicle absolutely needed? The answer is no, it’s overkill, especially when that money could be used on more practical means that would better suit the needs of Bozeman.
This controversy wouldn’t be as a big issue as it is today if the police department didn’t bypass the steps to get the vehicle grant approved. The city commissioner did not know about the vehicle or the grant until the vehicle was revealed to the public. Police Chief Ron Price of the Bozeman Police Department has said that it was ‘a mistake and that they thought they had taken all the necessary steps to get the grant approved’. Because the Bearcat was revealed with absolutely no one knowing about it, the citizens of Bozeman grew angry.
The biggest concern with a vehicle like the Bearcat is it potentially shows the use of a militarized police force. In a small community where the crime rate is fairly low when it comes to violent offenses, a militarized police force can be threatening to citizens. Citizens are not used to seeing military style vehicles with “police” written on them, so they might revolt and that only causes more problems within the community. Bozeman is a town that has a high influence from the college. Having a military style vehicle roaming around or being sent into a situation at the college (say a riot), could cause concern, not just from the community, but possibly get the attention of the state or even the nation. In bigger cities it’s a necessity, in a small town like Bozeman, it’s more of a want than a need. The police department argues that it’s needed to protect high end individuals and the police in a shootout, but will any of that happen in the near future? Probably not in Bozeman, unless there is a huge crime spike. Until crime rises, the police department should spend money and grants on better items that have a little more practical use than a lumbering armored vehicle.
Although the community is upset with the police department, their concerns are not being swept under the rug. The Bearcat’s future will be decided in a hearing on Oct. 6, and depending on how that goes the Bearcat might stay or it might be sent away. With all the growth that Bozeman is experiencing, the Bearcat might come in handy. As of right now, with the low crime and population in Bozeman, the Bearcat is just not practical and therefore should be refunded and the money should go to better needs around the community.