One of the more rabid members of the Manhattan community had this to say about the local police department’s new armored vehicle: It’s a tool for fascists.
That, of course, is preposterous and over the line. Police here are real professionals, and to smear them like that is outrageous.
The issue is that the vehicle, a 2019 Lenco Bearcat, looks like it’s made to assault a Bin Laden stronghold in the desert. Anyone looking at it is inclined to have this reaction: “What the hell do the police in Manhattan, Kansas, need THAT for?”
It just looks like overkill. It looks like a tank. There’s no way around that. We’d encourage some trust in the police here. First of all, the vehicle doesn’t include any guns. It has a ram equipped with a gas-injection system, but it’s not actually a tank.
The purpose, police say, is fundamentally defensive. In cases where there’s an active shooter or a hostage situation or an armed person barricaded into his home, the “tank” could allow the cops to get close without getting killed, or without having to shoot. It’s worth noting that what motivated the purchase was a situation in which a police officer was shot. Previous director Brad Schoen said that’s what changed his mind about acquiring the unit.
Second, let’s give the police some credit here. They considered buying the vehicle, discussed it publicly, and then held a public event to show it off. They didn’t hide, and we have to assume they knew there would be a heated reaction. It’s just an extremely intimidating piece of equipment.
Third, no taxpayer money was used to buy it. The money came from seizures in criminal cases, all processed through state for federal courts. That money cannot be used for regular police budget matters. It’s a $300,000 vehicle, by the way.
Police would be idiots to parade around in the tank, blasting away. Police here are not idiots; far from it. This is not a tool for subjugation of the working masses. It’s a tool to keep police officers safe. They think they need it. They have long operated with professionalism and discretion. We’re going to trust them on this one.
Sure, the optics are alarming. But optics are not everything.