WTHI recently ran a story on the Terre Haute Police Department’s acquisition of a Bearcat, armored emergency response vehicle. In the story, Patrece Dayton reported that the vehicle was, “similar to an armored vehicle.” The Bearcat is not “similar to” an armored vehicle, it is an armored vehicle. Terre Haute Police Officer Ryan Adamson goes on to state that whenever the THPD, “sees an opportunity to invest in something to not only keep the police department safe but the community safe, we are going to do it.” Thankfully citizens responded en masse to the report on WTHI’s Facebook page, and expressed their desire that the THPD not invest in every opportunity to keep us “safe.”
In December 2017 I reached out to the THPD by phone and in writing with this question, “I’m a combat veteran and a minister in Terre Haute, and I’ve been involved in many discussions recently regarding mass shootings and gun control. I believe that the transfer of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies is a crucial element in this debate. Has the Terre Haute Police Department received military equipment, and if so, where can a resident see what has been transferred?” To this day I still have not received a response. On my own I emailed the Project on Government Oversight, and they sent me a link that reports every item transferred from the Department of Defense to local law enforcement agencies. Included on the list of transfers to the Terre Haute Police Department were eighty-four assault rifles with night vision scopes, seven “utility trucks,” and an armored personnel carrier.
The militarization of police forces in the United States is a topic that I have been watching closely for quite some time. If you’re not familiar with the debate here are just a few key points in the time line. In 1997 the Nation Defense Authorization Act was passed by a Republican held house and senate. In section 1033 of the bill it established the program which would allow the transfer of “surplus military equipment” from the department of defense to local law enforcement agencies, for “counter-drug” and “counter-terrorism” efforts. In May 2015 Rand Paul, the Republican Senator from Kentucky, introduced legislation titled the “Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act,” which president Obama then enacted through executive order. This was in part due to public outcry against the militarized appearance of the police forces responding to the riots in Ferguson, MO. The transfer of equipment was then re-authorized by an executive order from President Trump in August 2017.
Many Terre Haute residents driving past the THPD on Wabash Avenue, have expressed concern over the armored vehicle that the department already possesses. It is my belief that we should have protested the acquisition of that vehicle and forced our community leaders to send it back, but unfortunately that never happened. Many residents have sensed the winds of change blowing through Terre Haute, and we now have another golden opportunity to take a stand for what we want our community to look like. We do not want armored military vehicles parked on our streets. We do not want police patrolling or responding to emergencies in military style body armor and equipment. These things do not increase the safety of our community, they increase the feelings of fear and anxiety which make people more likely to commit violent acts. Please join with me in contacting the mayor, city and county councilors, and the Terre Haute Police Department (812-238-1661), and demand that the Bearcat and the Armored Personnel Carrier be sent back.
I primarily write about theology, interpreting the bible, and politics. I am in the process of transferring websites, so if you are interested in reading more please visit www.nthcc.com/slowworm