If the San Leandro Police Department gets their way, not only will they get a brand new Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck (Bearcat), but they will be able to use it in whichever way they want. The proposed policy allows use of the vehicle for “purposes including, but not limited to, calls for service involving potentially armed subjects, Tactical Team callouts, search warrants, officer or citizen rescues, or authorized training” (emphasis added). The policy, furthermore, allows the use of the BearCat “during non-violent demonstrations” when “there are objective facts demonstrating a risk of injury or death to police officers and/or the public.” As every human activity involves risk of injury – people can always fall, butt heads, get sunstroke – this language allows for the use of the vehicle at any non-violent demonstration.
The policy, furthermore, places no limits in the use of vehicle as a shooting platform (the BearCat comes equipped with 11 gun ports and a rotating roof hatch with a gunner stand) or on the use of the tear gas deployment equipment in the vehicle.
Even if the policy was stricter, the San Leandro Police has a history of disregarding policy when it doesn’t suit its needs. In 2013, for example, the City Council passed a social media policy that prohibited the publication of photos of people in social media without the subject’s expressed authorization. The police disregarded this policy from the beginning, when I pressed the City Attorney about this, he responded that the City Manager would update the policy to suit the SLPD’s needs. When Chief of Police Sandra Spagnoli, not only disregarded policy but broke the law by using City time and resources to coordinate lobbying against a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance, she faced no consequences whatsoever.
But a broad policy does signify that the SLPD will have no qualms about using this vehicle in any and every situation that it encounters, against regular citizens and non-violent protestors, that it will use it to intimidate members of the community and that it is more interested in appearing as an occupying force than a community safety tool.
The City Council will be voting on the BearCat on Monday, Feb. 2nd, at 7 PM. A rally against the BearCat will take place at City Hall starting at 6 PM.