A Town Takes on Police Militarization

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

I have a piece up at Huffington Post about the residents of Keene, New Hampshire resisting the city council’s plan to use a DHS grant to purchase an armored personnel vehicle.

Side note: When I speak to journalism students, I always emphasize the importance of calling hostile sources. Most of the time, they aren’t going to call you back. But sometimes they do. And sometimes when they do, they’ll give you quotes that make your eyes pop out of your head. And now you have a much, much more interesting story.

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58 Responses to “A Town Takes on Police Militarization”

  1. #1 |  Roho | 

    I try not to go for the whole ‘conspiracy theory’ slant on things, but I did find it fascinating that immediately after the backlash against the tank, the police suddenly had a situation on their hands. They put all the schools on lockdown, mobilized the helicopters, etc. Oh, *now* can’t you poor naive civilians see why we need that tank so badly? Thank god everyone made it home safe without it – this time.

    (The situation in question was a domestic disturbance)

  2. #2 |  Steve in Clearwater | 

    I’m guessing this line:

    “If a group of terrorists decide to shoot up a shopping mall in a town like Keene, wouldn’t you rather be prepared?”

    ….is the kind of offering that makes all those boring boilerplate interviews completely worth the effort.

  3. #3 |  nigmalg | 

    And the typical canard of officer safety comes up immediately… It’s become the race card, and it’s just as shameless.

  4. #4 |  Mario | 

    To resist now would be like saying police officers should scrap the Glock and go back to the revolver.

    Actually, from the reckless use police make of semi-automatic pistols, I think it’s pretty clear that they ought to go back to the revolver.

  5. #5 |  CyniCAl | 

    This land is their land, this land is their land, from California to the New York Highlands, from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters, this land was made for them and them.

  6. #6 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “When you see some Palestinian terrorist causing problems in Jerusalem, what do you usually see next? You see a tank with a cannon show up outside the guy’s house, and the tank blows the house to smithereens. When a Lenco Bearcat shows up at a crime scene where a suicidal killer is holding hostages, it doesn’t show up with a cannon. It shows up with a negotiator. Our trucks save lives. They save police lives. And I can’t help but think that the people who are trying to stop this just don’t think police officers’ lives are worth saving.”

    What the hell? Is this sales manager for real? Did he just compare the issues in Keane to the issues in Gaza? And the last line was just awful. Way to demonize tax paying citizens! I think Bearcat needs to find another PR person. This is even worse than the usual corporate spin.

  7. #7 |  Henry Acton | 

    @Radley Balko + others

    I wrote an opposing view in support of the Bearcat, those nice freedom freaks printed it for me here: http://thanksbutnotanks.fr33agents.com/2012/02/16/why-you-should-support-the-bearcat/

  8. #8 |  CyniCAl | 

    Bearcat could hire Hermann Goering, Helmut:

    “… the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. it works the same in any country.”

    Or maybe they already have?

  9. #9 |  Mike T | 

    Jim Massery, the government sales manager for Pittsfield, Mass.-based Lenco, dismissed critics who wonder why a town with almost no crime would need a $300,000 armored truck. “I don’t think there’s any place in the country where you can say, ‘That isn’t a likely terrorist target,’” Massery said. “How would you know? We don’ t know what the terrorists are thinking. No one predicted that terrorists would take over airplanes on Sept. 11. If a group of terrorists decide to shoot up a shopping mall in a town like Keene, wouldn’t you rather be prepared?”

    Sure. So buy a helicopter so you can land the police on the roof. Otherwise they might as well just pull up in police cruisers because any terrorist with a .308 or higher can cut them down whether they’re getting out of a cruiser, a bearcat or a bradley.

  10. #10 |  Bad Medicine | 

    #8 – But make it an armored helicopter… with big frickin’ rockets and a machine gun that fires depleted uranium shells… so the terrorists shooting up the mall can be taken out from 500 feet away… THAT’s what the police need…

  11. #11 |  Henry Acton | 

    “Sure. So buy a helicopter so you can land the police on the roof.”

    That would put the police in danger. The great advantage to the Bearcat is that they can hide behind proper cover until the shooters commit suicide or get shot/captured by the citizens. This is very important for officer safety.

  12. #12 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    CyniCAL:

    Good point. And it does seem to work the same in any country. Even as people in the U.S. walk around chanting “it can’t happen here” it is indeed happening. People like Jim Massery need to be roundly ridiculed. If its one thing people in high places can’t stand it is ridicule.

  13. #13 |  Mr Weebles | 

    It’s “Keene,” not “Keane.”

    /nitpicking.

    Keene’s a nice little town and they need this Bearcat like they need a hole in the head.

  14. #14 |  SJE | 

    “If a group of terrorists decide to shoot up a shopping mall in a town like Keene, wouldn’t you rather be prepared?”

    Exactly how does an armored vehicle help in that situation?

    As for it being “free”: perhaps GETTING it is free, but running an 8 ton truck with all the gear is definitely NOT free. The gas alone would pay for an extra officer.

  15. #15 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    “To resist now would be like saying police officers should scrap the Glock and go back to the revolver. It’s a fantasy.”

    I don’t mind police officers having autoloaders if citizens can too. I would suggest that a normal police car is to this armoured car as a revolver is to, say, a light machine gun.

  16. #16 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Topless Tuesdays?

  17. #17 |  Mattocracy | 

    If the town doesn’t get their bearcat, will the officers quit their jobs because their safety would be far to comprimised? If not, then I would say that is a pretty clear indication that this purchase isn’t necessary.

    There are lots of reasons why a town should not want this vehicle. The cost of operation and maint is the most tangable reason to reject it. It’s not the officers who have to pay for this out of pocket, it’s everyone else. Seems only fair that the taxpayers get to vote on this.

  18. #18 |  Dan | 

    “If a group of terrorists decide to shoot up a shopping mall in a town like Keene, wouldn’t you rather be prepared?”

    I’ve never been to Keene, but as far as I can tell from Google maps, there is no shopping mall.

  19. #19 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Can we all just admit that people want a really cool toy? And that all the BS about “officer safety” and “terrorists” and “negotiators” is just BS?

  20. #20 |  Dan Danknick | 

    Radley, this is some stellar agitation. You couldn’t ask for a better combination than this Massery clown and his big mouth.

  21. #21 |  Chicagojon | 

    I love the Massery quote “We have Bearcats in 90 percent of the 100 or so largest cities in America,”

    Oh, well that explains why a NH town of 23,000 needs one.

  22. #22 |  Henry Acton | 

    @Dan #18

    There is a shopping mall, the Colony Mill, a beautiful old brick mill turned into a picturesque marketplace. It has been horribly mismanaged and few businesses remain. Many of the former long term occupants have moved elsewhere, especially to Main Street, where they charge even higher prices to pay for the rent that pays for the cops.

  23. #23 |  albatross | 

    With no evidence at all, I wonder if some members of the Keanne city council were planning a rather more pleasant retirement in a few years, contingent on buying one of these things.

  24. #24 |  marco73 | 

    Any terrorist attacks would be over before that truck can be pulled out of the garage. The local cops will use it for drug busts in poor neighborhoods.

  25. #25 |  EH | 

    When exactly was the last time a group of terrorists “shot up” anything at all?

  26. #26 |  EH | 

    You know, giving it another 15 seconds of thought, I think the use of the word “terrorist” in terms of shooting up a mall is a tell on the part of Mr. Massery. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how domestic upset is being colored within the industry.

  27. #27 |  Jeff Hall | 

    “What the hell? Is this sales manager for real? Did he just compare the issues in Keane to the issues in Gaza? ”

    I dunno, those Keene State students can get pretty rowdy. Especially after their financial aid checks come in and they spend it all on root beer. A tank or two might make them think twice before acting up.

  28. #28 |  Scott | 

    I lived in Keene for several years as a child and I simply cannot fathom the logic behind this craziness.

    Well, actually, given that I’m a libertarian who has been reading Radley’s stuff for years, I can, but … so much stupidness.

    And pretty much every municipality thinks that anything bought with a government grant is “free.” It’s caused some facepalm-worthy situations here where I live when they get grants to build things for “free” from the feds and then start losing money from their budgets every year maintaining it.

  29. #29 |  Brandon | 

    #7 Henry Acton: That’s a video, you didn’t *write* shit.

  30. #30 |  derfel cadarn | 

    Lenco’s Massery is truly an asshole. Help from the police does not iunclude showing up after the event and killing all those left alive. Most Americans care about as much about LEOs lives as the LEOs care about theirs. With the repeated examples being shown by the ever expanding number of abusive police vids,one can conclude that the police have very little regard for mere mundanes lives,therefore in return we mundanes do not value yours very highly. The likelihood that this piece of equipment is used to “terrorize”Keene’s citizens is exponentially more likely than any scenarioinvolving terrorists shooting up a mall,unless it is the local police doing the shooting.

  31. #31 |  Andrew S. | 

    Brandon @ 29: He actually did write something. It was a masterful job of sarcasm if I do say so myself. His link is just screwy. Better one: http://thanksbutnotanks.fr33agents.com/why-you-should-support-the-bearcat/

  32. #32 |  mike | 

    Thanks Andrew S. I had followed the link from the HuffPost article and decided not to watch the video. That was a great piece of sarcasm, and I dare say the comment he appended to it just added to the fun. The depressing, depressing fun. He really struck a “new professionalism” nerve a la Radley.

  33. #33 |  B | 

    Re hostile sources

    Yeah, wow, that really made the piece. Mr. Massery sounds just like one of those OCP executives in Robocop.

  34. #34 |  steve | 

    Went to HP and saw “OVERKILL” at the top in a big bold headline. Nice.

  35. #35 |  abc | 

    By the way, about that video, which I assume is the ad described in the article: “Unfortunately, this video is not available in Germany [where I currently happen to live] because it may contain music for which GEMA has not granted the respective music rights.”

  36. #36 |  Personanongrata | 

    “This is going to happen. It has already happened. To resist now would be like saying police officers should scrap the Glock and go back to the revolver. It’s a fantasy.”

    I agree police officers should scrap the Glock and go back to the revolver.

    Reverting back to the use of revolvers would put an immediate end to the fusillades of lead used by the tax feeding adernaline junkies who are operating under guise of law enforcement professionals.

    No APC’s for LEO’s.

  37. #37 |  RobSmalls | 

    Good old Hank Acton just earned himself a fan here, if he cares. That support letter for the Bearcat just oozes with all the patriotism and support the KPD deserves. His follow-up comment was just as good too. When I was reading it, I could almost hear a baritone choir humming the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in my head.

  38. #38 |  Danny | 

    Bart Township, PA has a population of 3,000. In October 2006 a lone gunman went on a rampage inside schoolhouse for half an hour; responding police were held at bay. 10 victims were shot – half fatally.

    Here’s the lesson: armored police vehicles are needed very, very rarely, but they are needed sometimes, and at those times, every second counts.

    Analytically, town size has little to do with the possibility of needing an armored police vehicle. Yes, any one small town is unlikely to have such an incident, but some small town somewhere almost certainly will have such an incident.

    The question is whether proliferating these armored police vehicles to the extent that they provide comprehensive ‘coverage’ across the country is worth the cost, and worth the possibility of misuse.

    Misuse can be addressed by good policy. Cost is what it is. The alternative is that small-town cops won’t be able to put up the best response to a worst-case scenario, and we will have to console ourselves with the knowledge that such worst-case scenarios are very rare.

  39. #39 |  BamBam | 

    @37, if the goal is everyone should be safe everywhere at all times, then an infinite amount of money, and an equal amount of liberty will be lost. It’s simply an absurd expectation to be protected at all times. Life is dangerous.

  40. #40 |  Robert Y | 

    Bart Township, PA has a population of 3,000. In October 2006 a lone gunman went on a rampage inside schoolhouse for half an hour; responding police were held at bay. 10 victims were shot – half fatally.

    And what, praytell, would the police have done differently with their Bearcat APC? Hide behind that instead of their police cruisers? I fail to see how this would have saved anyone inside the schoolhouse.

  41. #41 |  Bob Mc | 

    #22 | Henry Acton |

    KPD “are the kind of people that give you that nice warm feeling you get when your country is on fire but you don’t get too hot because of the chill going down your spine”.

    Well done sir, well done.

  42. #42 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Tiger rocks EVERYWHERE!

    Misuse can be addressed by good policy.

    LOL. Someone link to a couple thousand police abuse videos, please.

  43. #43 |  Mannie | 

    #38 | Danny | February 16th, 2012 at 6:06 pm
    Bart Township, PA has a population of 3,000. In October 2006 a lone gunman went on a rampage inside schoolhouse for half an hour; responding police were held at bay. 10 victims were shot – half fatally.

    And how would you use that vehicle in a schoolhouse? The cops have to engage the shooter with long range rifle fire, in which case they don’t need an armored vehicle, or thay have to close with and destroy him, in which case the AV isn’t useful.

    About all it is good for, is as a weapon of intimidation. I’m not sure what they are good for in any city. Oh, it’s a neat toy. I want one.

  44. #44 |  Ariel | 

    So, are there any B-29 bombers left? After all they may need to drop the Bomb, so as to save the village by destroying it. (My metaphor is not a criticism of WWII; the invasion of Kyushu and all that would have followed would have been so, so much worse.)

  45. #45 |  Joe | 

    Jim Massery, the head of sales for Lenco, has his own blog. Enlightening.

    http://jmassery.wordpress.com/

  46. #46 |  tps | 

    I’ve got a better, and cheaper solution if the police really, really think they need an armor car: make sure the city/county has a good sized front-end loader or bulldozer. Maybe have a couple of steel sheets that you can place around the operator when needed.

    Since the odds that you’ll ever need it are so remote, the city will get some use out of it.

  47. #47 |  Darwin | 

    Osama may be dead but he suceeded beyond his wildest dreams.

  48. #48 |  el coronado | 

    Bearcat, hell. The Keene cops need a **KILLDOZER**!!!! With ray guns!

  49. #49 |  el coronado | 

    Just noticed #44 beat me to the punch. That’s bad: if 2 wiseacres can think it, the cops can think it. Can just picture them thinking, as they masturbate to the ‘Tactical Killdozer’ catalog, “Killdozers! Ohhhhhh, yeah…..”

  50. #50 |  dunphy | 

    calling “hostile sources” is important. not just because they can give you eye popping quotes, but because it’s FAIR to at least TRy to get both sides of the story… before printing it.

    that is equally true in criminal investigations, as in journalism.

    if the suspect isn’t there, AT LEAsT call him/her up on the phone and try to get their side of the story. sometimes they confess, sometimes they deny, sometimes they don’t answer, sometimes they provide an alibi or other exculpatory evidence, etc. but imo it’s simply a matter of FAIRNESS not to write a story (or charge a suspect) without at least TRYING to get their account of the incident or situation

    i’ve had cases where the suspect actually not only provides evidence to talk themselves out of arrest, but sometimes what they say/provide can REVERSE the tables and turn the “victim” into the suspect.

    but again, it just comes down to fundamental fairness. it’s a matter of thoroughness and fair play

  51. #51 |  Dante | 

    Danny said:
    “Misuse can be addressed by good policy.”

    I agree.

    Policy Number One: No militarization of local police departments.

    No tanks, APC’s, or assault teams. No 50 caliber guns. No Grenade Launchers. No military-grade equipment, or anything close.

    Policy Number Two: No more immunity for local police departments.

  52. #52 |  Burgers Allday | 

    When exactly was the last time a group of terrorists “shot up” anything at all?

    Mumbai. DC Snipers. I would also include that Craig guy in Washington who shot a policeman to death, and allegedly tried to shoot another one later, along with some minor firebombing, except for the fact that he worked alone. I think Washington also had a shooter attack a Jewish institution of some kind, but that one seemed more crazy than terroristic.

    Terrorist attacks of the future will generally be freeway snipings. In quantity, and to induce shock and awe. Bearcats won’t help. It will be an interesting year or so until ppl get used to it. Some will die, but mostly it will set us up for a huge battle over 2A, the likes of which we have never seen before.

  53. #53 |  Burgers Allday | 

    And of course I forgot Jared Loughner and the Fort Hood guy who hit all those soldiers and the policewoman.

    But really, when terrorists get smarter they will chose freeway targets so they don’t alsways get caught.

  54. #54 |  Justthisguy | 

    Misuse can be addressed by RPGs, or AT-4s, or LAWs, or even old-fashioned Bazookas and Panzerfaueste in the hands of private citizens. If the government has armor, the citizens should have anti-armor weapons. It is as simple as that.

  55. #55 |  Goober | 

    @ #38 – Can you imagine a scenario where this bearcat would have helped the police close on and eliminate this guy as a threat, inside a schoolhouse? Try hard. I am sort of struggling with it.

    Your post is only making our point – brave, brave public servants in body armor with automatic weapons hid behind their cruisers, outside, while people that were unarmed and without body armor were slaughtered inside, and all because ti would have been dangerous for the armored, armed police to go in – what about the kids inside?

    The police would no more have gone in with the bearcat than they did without. your story only further illuminates the character of the police force in America – they would rather violently harass and terrorize unarmed drug users than actually risk their lives to defend innocents.

    I promise you that without body armor, and with only my .38 snubby that I carry on me whenever I can, that I’d have gone into that school rather than sit outside and listen to kids get shot. Probably would have gotten myself shot for the trouble (or arrested for bringing a gun onto school proeprty – heh), but I sure as hell wouldn’t hide outside for fear that going in would be too dangerous.

  56. #56 |  Kevin Rulokowski | 

    Here is Jim Massery in the flesh…a little creepy, eh?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8eqIh6N0_U

  57. #57 |  JERRY | 

    So let me get this straight, the terrorists (or whoever) are going to wait to shoot up the mall until after the big mamajama police tactical all-terrain vehicle shows up. Yeah, OK. ……..Can’t stop laughing, .

  58. #58 |  Zeb | 

    Keene is a city, not a town.

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