An armored tank? At the Solano Stroll?
The North County Tactical Working Group -- Berkeley, Albany and UC police departments -- seeks homeland security funds to buy a "tactical intervention vehicle." The money, estimated in the low six figures, would come from the Urban Area Security Initiative.
Critics call trucks like the Lenco BearCat the latest must-have item for local police agencies and say the federal government is throwing money at cities to obtain them for use in riots, hostage situations or terrorist attacks. Supporters say they give police the competitive edge in situations that pose a threat to public safety.
The name BearCat stands for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck. According to Police Vehicles magazine, "its 1.5-inch-thick steel armored bodywork is completed with ballistic glass capable of multi-hits, blast-resistant floors, specially designed gunports, roof hatches/turret and agency specific equipment and/or modifications such as lights/sirens/battering ram/winches/thermal cameras and spot lights."
According to PoliceOne magazine, the BearCat "easily can withstand hits from most common small arms, has plenty of room to accommodate not only a security crew but also ambush victims in need of rescue, maneuvers well, and can move out at high speeds when required."
The BearCat is already in use in at least 20 American cities, although voters in one -- Keene, New Hampshire -- are forcing the town council to send the $285,000, eight-ton vehicle back to its maker, believing it to be "completely unnecessary."
Funding has already been greenlighted to train officers in multiple assault counter-terrorism action capability.
Opponents say the kicker is how the working group justified the expenditure: Cal games and the Solano Stroll, they said, would be likely venues for terror attacks.
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