Bloomington Police Chief Mike Diekhoff continues to defend his controversial purchase of a Lenco BearCat armored vehicle. Diekhoff spoke at length at the Tuesday afternoon meeting of the Bloomington Board of Public Safety.
The Bloomington Police Department once owned and armored vehicle, which was replaced with a Brinks truck. That truck gave out in 2012.
Members of the community have criticized Diekhoff for militarizing the police force with the BearCat purchase. Diekhoff sought to assure the community the vehicle would not be dispatched casually. He acknowledges armored vehicles have been used “in ways that even other police professionals have questioned.”
Diekhoff says currently, there is no written policy on how and when the Lenco Bearcat will be used. He says new language will be added to existing policies once the vehicle arrives.
Diekhoff says deciding on how and when to deploy the CIRT team and the BearCat will be a layered process. He also says the vehicle will not be loaned to other communities by itself. He says the CIRT team and the vehicle together could be sent, if another community requests that assistance.
Safety board members questioned Diekhoff on a number of issues, including whether the need for it is real. Diekhoff noted several Indiana cities that own armored vehicles. He stated that every Big 10 university has access to an armored vehicle. Board member Kim Gray asked Diekhoff about Indiana University’s interest in a vehicle.
Members of the public were given three minutes to speak to the issue. Concerned community members asked the Safety Board to use their authority to halt the armored vehicle purchase. They are asking the board to review policing data and consider alternatives. Black Lives Matter organizers Vauxx Booker and Jada Bee are among them. They maintain minorities are disproportionately affected when police use force.
The city hosted another public dialogue on the issue this afternoon at the City Hall Atrium. The next meeting of the Board of Public Safety is scheduled for Tuesday, March 20 at 5 p.m. at City Hall.