Atlantic Cities

Concord Stops Its Police Chief From Buying a Ridiculous Military Vehicle

Concord Stops Its Police Chief From Buying a Ridiculous Military Vehicle
Lenco Armored Vehicles

Residents of Concord, New Hampshire, accomplished a rare feat earlier this week when they prevented their police chief, if only temporarily, from buying a BearCat. 

What's a BearCat, you say? Lenco Armored Vehicles says its best selling truck can "be used as a S.W.A.T. or Military Counter Attack and Rescue Vehicle and is often used in hostile Urban Environments or as a Patrol/Reaction Vehicle on a Military Base." It holds up to 10 people, is cheap to maintain, and can be equipped with the "Mechanical Rotating Turret with Cupola (Tub) and Weapon Ready Mounting System, suitable for the M60, 240B and Mark 19 weapons system."

In plain English, the BearCat can drive through a hail of bullets, carry a team of soldiers, and be topped — like an ice cream sundae from hell — with either a machine gun or a grenade launcher. It is basically the perfect vehicle for an urban war zone. Concord, New Hampshire, with its population of around 42,600 and a violent crime rate of 227 per 100,000 people, is of course not an urban war zone. 

Then again, no town in the United States should theoretically require such weapons, yet cities of every size have them thanks to the Pentagon's congressionally approved "1033 Program." Begun in 1994, the program allows the Department of Defense to donate weapons, vehicles, and equipment to local police departments, regardless of whether they need them (or know how to appropriately use them). 

Last year, Concord Police Chief John Duval decided he wanted what other cities have. In Concord's grant application to the Department of Homeland Security, obtained by the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union, Duval and the city practically had to make up a threat, claiming that while New Hampshire has "not been victimized from a mass casualty event from an international terrorism strike however on the domestic front, the threat is real and here. Groups such as the Sovereign Citizens, Free Staters and Occupy New Hampshire are active and present daily challenges." After the grant application was unearthed by the NHCLU, Duval "said he does not see the groups as domestic terrorists and admitted that the section of the application was poorly worded."

But that wasn't enough. On Monday night, protestors flooded the Concord City Council meeting, both to object to Duval's characterization of Occupy New Hampshire and the Free State Project, and to let lawmakers know they don't want a BearCat in their city. According to the Concord Monitor, protestors held signs that read, "More Mayberry less Fallujah" and "Thanks but no tanks." With 150 protestors squeezed inside the meeting, and others protesting peacefully outside, the council agreed to table its vote. 

"It requires much more debate than we have time for tonight," the Monitor reported Councilor Dan St. Hilaire as saying. The city council and its protesters will revisit the BearCat question on Sept. 9.

See a BearCat in action: 

Mike Riggs is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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