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Residents Get First Look At Controversial Armored Vehicle

The Bloomington Police Department’s armored vehicle is a Lenco Bearcat (Alex Eady, WFIU/WTIU News)

Bloomington residents got a chance to see the police department’s controversial armored vehicle for the first time Tuesday night.

The city put the Lenco Bearcat on display to the public during an event inside the Switchyard Park Operations Building.

The city first announced the purchase of the armored vehicle back in February. But critics protested the decision, citing fears it would lead to police militarization.

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton says the open house was an opportunity to clear up any confusion about the vehicle.

“This vehicle is probably used more transparently than any in the state,” he says. “We hope it’s never used but it will be used in highly dangerous situations.”

The city council passed an ordinance last month to establish limitations on the vehicle’s use. It prohibits the Bearcat from being used for crowd control and stipulates only the police department’s Critical Incident Response Team can have access during certain situations.

Bloomington residents got a first look at the police department’s new armored vehicle Tuesday (Alex Eady, WFIU/WTIU News)

Bloomington resident Steve Hawkins says seeing the rescue vehicle in person confirmed how he felt about the purchase.

“It’s not really changing anything, I just see it as a tool,” he says. “It keeps the police safe and like any other job you have to have the right tools for the job. I think it’s neat.”

Vauhxx Booker is the spokesman for Black Lives Matter Bloomington. He says although the city moved forward with the vehicle purchase, many in the community are still concerned about its use.

“I’m not sure this is a vehicle conducive to good community policing,” he says. “But now that it’s here, and for the time that it’s here, we’re going to take this as an opportunity to make sure that we systematically look at our police force.”

Bloomington Chief of Police Mike Diekhoff says the Bearcat is a basic Ford truck with a steel body and it is projected to last at least 20 years.

Hamilton says the vehicle will be housed underground in different locations throughout the city.

Only the police department’s CIRT team will have access to the armored vehicle. Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton greets residents at the open house event. (Alex Eady, WFIU/WTIU News)

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