More towns saying ‘no’ to military vehicles for police

More towns saying ‘no’ to military vehicles for police

In libertarian-leaning New Hampshire, a state lawmaker just introduced a bill that would ban municipalities from accepting military-style vehicles without approval from voters. That came in response to the Concord City Council’s vote in the fall to accept a $258,000 federal grant to buy a BearCat, despite intense opposition from citizens who submitted a 1,500-signature petition and rallied outside City Hall holding signs that said, “More Mayberry, Less Fallujah” and “Thanks But No Tanks!”

“This seems over the top and unnecessary to have this level of armament,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. J.R. Hoell. He said police in 11 communities in New Hampshire now have armored vehicles.

The Facebook page of the Salinas, Calif., police department drew torrents of complaints after the force recently got an armored vehicle from the military surplus program. “When did Salinas turn into a battlefield?” a citizen wrote in December. “I feel the Constitution shredding under my feet.” …

DHS allocated nearly $1 billion for grants to states and local governments in fiscal year 2010 to protect against potential terrorist attacks, with $6 million going to armored vehicles, the most recent figures available for spending on the vehicles. The overall grant program has drawn criticism from federal budget hawks.

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In 2012, Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) complained that more than $35 billion had been spent since 2003, some of it on “questionable items.” He specifically criticized “tank-like” BearCats for local police, noting that the grant application from one small New Hampshire town cited “protecting the town’s annual pumpkin festival” as a reason why the armored truck was needed.

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