Residents in some towns have begun objecting to the large armored vehicles that local police departments are receiving from the federal government, reports the Wall Street Journal. Six-figure grants from the Department of Homeland Security have been funding BearCats and other heavily fortified vehicles in towns and cities since soon after the 2001 terror attacks. Beginning last summer, the government also has handed out 200 surplus vehicles built to withstand mines and bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is considering requests from 750 more communities. Most police and citizens welcome the extra protection, saying recent mass shootings show any local force could find itself facing a violent or dangerous situation.
Antipathy has grown in some pockets—from New York to Ohio to California—which see the machines as symbols of government waste and a militarization of law enforcement, including the growth of SWAT teams and high-tech gadgets. In libertarian-leaning New Hampshire, a legislator introduced a bill to ban municipalities from accepting military-style vehicles without approval from voters. That came in response to the Concord City Council’s vote to accept a $258,000 federal grant to buy a BearCat, despite 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!” Peter Kraska, a professor in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University, believes revelations about federal surveillance programs help drive the discomfort with outfitting police departments like the military. The armored vehicles are “a pretty visual example of overreach,” he says.