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Mary Catherine Carmichael
Director of Public Engagement
carmichm@bloomington.in.gov
812-349-3406

 

Mayor Announces CIRT Vehicle Purchase Decision

*This announcement can also be found here with the ability to add your comments directly to the text. 
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Bloomington, Ind. - Today Mayor John Hamilton announced his decision to purchase a replacement armored vehicle for use by the Bloomington Police Department Critical Incident Response Team, and related issues.  
 

MAYOR HAMILTON’S COMMENTS:

As the mayor of Bloomington, I help lead a beloved city. And an imperfect city. Like every city in America, our Bloomington – vibrant, inclusive, and progressive as it is today – has a long and deep history of racism, sexism, and intolerance. In light of that history, and aggravated by the regressive and coarse national political actions and discourse these days, many of our people strive continually to bring our community closer to our goals of justice and opportunity for all, attentive to places where we still fall short or where concerns arise. Those ambitions and attentions are good and constructive in helping our community improve.

At present, we have a decision as a community to make about public safety. In particular, about whether or how to replace an armored vehicle that would be used by specialists in our police department to respond to highly dangerous situations. There are good reasons for a community to debate this issue, reflecting the real dangers to police officers in their work, the real aspects of implicit racial bias affecting all of us, and the evident legacy of misuse of such vehicles in places like Ferguson, Missouri and other communities, among other factors.

Indeed, this issue should be considered in light of a wide range of factors affecting public safety generally and the Bloomington Police Department (BPD) more specifically. National and historical realities demonstrate that police departments in our country have at times and in places been more occupying forces than community protectors. We have seen that in some communities recently, and historical legacies in our police forces and justice systems persist. Our own community is of course not immune from such legacies. Nonetheless, I believe the vast majority of our community appreciates the professionalism and commitment of our own police force to overcoming such legacies, year by year, and is very proud of the record of community engagement and commitment to openness and accountability demonstrated by our department and our officers.

The BPD as a whole fosters, and demands from each of its officers, a commitment to the  protector/guardian approach to police work from the moment of a potential officer’s first interview. It is fair and important to keep in mind the past behaviors and actions demonstrated by BPD officers when evaluating the appropriateness of a particular tool or technique to be potentially included in BPD operations.

Since becoming mayor, I have embraced and deepened the commitment of our public safety officers to be guardians of our community and protectors of the peace, integrally connected to all the people of our community, explicitly rejecting any approach that endorses a militaristic or ‘warrior’ ethic. I have said frequently that our community is stronger the more we the people know about the police -- who officers are, what officers do, how officers operate -- and that similarly the police are better the more they know about our community -- who we are, what we think, and how we envision our future together.

This deep commitment to community engagement and a protector/guardian approach to police work is evident in many ways, including with information available on the BPD website https://bloomington.in.gov/police. Several aspects of BPD training and reporting are worth noting here:

  • After a comprehensive review in 2016 at my direction, BPD has embraced and adopted the recommendations of the 21st Century Policing Report developed by the Obama Administration, reviewing all 60 specific recommendations with the Board of Public Safety.

  • BPD provides every officer in the department nearly 100 hours of training per year, four times the amount required by state law, including 4 hours dedicated specifically to verbal de-escalation. Last year BPD hosted a nationally recognized expert for 8 hours of mandatory implicit bias training for all officers. Beyond these two courses, both de-escalation and implicit bias training are woven throughout most topics upon which BPD officers are trained.

  • In 2016 at my direction BPD began publicly reporting quarterly crime and related data on the city website.

  • In 2016 at my direction BPD joined the Police Data Initiative, one of the smallest cities that joined this national program founded by the Obama Administration that publishes, for accountability and research, key crime and demographic data from departments voluntarily joining from across the country.

  • In 2013 BPD created the Downtown Resource Officer program with the goal of improving the connections between BPD and downtown residents and patrons, improving integration with social service providers and those in need of those services.

  • For each of the past 4 years BPD has allocated $100,000 of its annual budget to support staffing at social service agencies like the Shalom Community Center, Centerstone, and other social service agencies.

  • In 2017, BPD trained unarmed, non-badged parking enforcement officers in de-escalation techniques, and assigned them for partial shifts to enhance the ability to respond to downtown situations with less reliance on traditional law enforcement approaches.

  • From the beginning of this administration, we have endeavored to remove unnecessary barriers between BPD and the people they serve, including the direction in my first month of office to remove opaque tinted windows in all squad cars.

  • BPD was among the earliest adopters of body cameras, employed by all officers regularly since 2014, enhancing public review, oversight and accountability.

  • BPD has reviewed and follows all the recommendations of the the ACLU committee  2014 report WAR COMES HOME, The Excessive Militarization of American Policing

  • The membership of the Board of Public Safety, appointed by the mayor, is more diverse than ever, presently 80% people of color and 60% female.

  • BPD is currently pursuing a national accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation For Law Enforcement Agencies, to promote benchmarking against best national standards and demonstrate a commitment to continual improvement.  BPD would be one of about 15 city police departments in the state to hold such accreditation.

Process And Timeline For Recommendation And Selection Of the Armored Vehicle

The planned purchase of a replacement armored vehicle began without the transparency we aspire to and should demonstrate as your city government. Those were missteps for which both BPD Chief Diekhoff and I have apologized and done our best to remedy.

An armored vehicle replacement was included as part of the five-year plan for Public Safety Local Income Tax (PS-LIT) budget capital improvements, shared in a public document with the PS-LIT committee in the summer of 2016. The same five-year plan included a police facility expansion project, replacement of vehicles and other equipment. A new garage was budgeted and appropriated for 2017. When bids for that project came in too high and well over budget, the city administration reassigned funds, as is routinely and legally done within appropriated budgets, and accelerated the planned acquisition of an armored vehicle, per the PS-LIT five-year plan. However, no formal discussions of that acceleration were held with members of city council or the general public at the time.

When the planned purchase of a replacement armored vehicle - a Lenco Bearcat - was announced in early February 2018, at the second annual “State of Public Safety” address, some members of the community protested against the purchase as an inappropriate “militarization” of the local police. Others voiced support for the purchase as a critical part of public safety. Some expressed concern about the transparency of the process leading to the planned purchase. Seven weeks of extensive public engagement, research, dialogue, and involvement followed, including five formal public sessions, many more informal meetings with concerned residents, activists, and public safety personnel, and more than 500 individual comments from interested persons.

Advocating to, challenging, and protesting about our government is a healthy exercise in a democracy. It testifies to the promise that words and dialogue have more power and potential than violence. Throughout this entire review process my staff and I have listened to those weighing in on this topic. Public input has reflected many different viewpoints and has prompted a full review of the planned purchase within the administration. While a purchase order had been made for the vehicle, the review conducted and leading to this report was holistic and began with a clean slate: should Bloomington acquire such a vehicle, and if so, of what type, and under what circumstances and protocols should it be used? If not, what could provide a comparable level of safety for officers and the public? At no point in this review was the potential cost of terminating the purchase order/contract a relevant factor. The goal was, and has always been, to make the decisions that best reflect both the need to protect our officers and those in harm's way and the very legitimate concerns about any perceived militarization of law enforcement and potential for misuse. The active engagement between the community and your government has been fruitful, meaningful, and absolutely has had an impact on me and my administration as we considered this issue. A summary of that review and analysis and the resulting decisions and recommendations, follow:
 

REVIEW AND ANALYSIS:

Does Bloomington Need a Replacement Armored Vehicle?

This is a foundational, and fair, question. It is not simple to answer. No one data point or anecdote should determine whether a community needs either a Critical Incident Response (CIRT) team or an armored vehicle. Several points are fundamental:

We live in, and our police officers face, a highly armed world. National violent crime statistics have declined significantly in the past 40 years, but violent crime in our own community has approximately doubled in the past 10 years. The number of police officers murdered annually has generally declined nationally over the past decades. But the arming of America has been dramatic: while the percent of homes that contain a firearm nationally has been decreasing, the concentration is striking, as an estimated 3% of households now own 50% of all privately owned guns in the country. The variety, quantity and relative anonymity of these firearms presents a serious challenge for law enforcement. They have no way of knowing when they enter a residence if the person is unarmed, or in possession of more firepower than our entire police department possesses. Over the past three years, local courts have issued confiscation orders for 67 firearms from 15 individuals determined to be a danger to themselves or others. The weapons seized in court orders range from small handguns to AR-15 rifles. In 2012, BPD seized 45 firearms from one individual who had spent several nights observing Kilroy’s Sports with a laser range finder. Many of the rifles were pre-sighted in for the exact distance between Sports and the Walnut parking garage.

Since 2015, BPD has responded annually to over 300 calls for service involving weapons. That is, almost every day of the week, BPD is responding to a call where someone has a weapon, and another individual felt threatened enough to call the police. While federally funded research on gun violence is limited by law, there is evidence that the lethality of mass shootings has increased as a result of the end of the 2004 Assault Weapons Ban. Relatively inexpensive rifles modeled after weapons designed for military application are widely available. State law prohibits the administration or the City Council from acting to restrict the purchase or display of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories. These actions by our state and Federal governments have created a situation where individuals intent on harm are able easily to purchase weapons designed to efficiently kill human beings.

Mass shootings are not the only arena affected by our nation's inability to pass gun control legislation. Hostage situations, barricaded gunman, warrant service for individuals known to be dangerous can all escalate beyond the capability of a typical patrol officer. Anecdotally, several foreign armored vehicle manufacturers commented that their vehicles were designed for other places besides America and were not sufficiently armored to handle the variety and power of weapons American law enforcement agencies must plan to encounter.

We cannot predict how likely we are to be home to a gun-related, mass-casualty event, or even a situation where an individual is possession of a high powered weapon, but these seizure orders give us notice that the ingredients for tragedy are present in our area: deadly weapons, limited regulation, and unstable individuals intent on harm.

When the CIRT team is deployed, it should be appropriately trained and outfitted. We know that in the past three years CIRT has been dispatched 25 times. These represent about 0.016 percent (or 1.6 out of 10,000) of BPD’s total dispatch calls over this time period. In more detail, in 2016 and 2017 CIRT deployed on 9 search warrants, 4 arrest warrants, 8 barricaded subjects, and 3 hostage rescue situations (beyond dispatch deployments members of the CIRT team have been engaged as part of a coordinated security detail that includes patrol officers and other agencies at 29 large-scale events, primarily associated with the university). Thus, history indicates that the CIRT team has been used very rarely. Those incidents represent the most known, potentially dangerous situations that our police face. The deployment of the CIRT team in each of those 25 incidents was approved through a detailed chain of command approval process which includes the use of a ‘threat matrix’ that rates the potential danger of a situation and involves multiple levels of approval culminating with the Chief of Police.

In my opinion, if our community and BPD are going to support a CIRT team, we owe it to the members of the team (and their families) to keep them as safe as we reasonably can. We cannot assure police officers’ complete safety. They face danger every day far beyond what most of us face. But we shouldn’t ask individuals to protect our community if we won’t give them the tools to do it responsibly and safely. In the case of CIRT members who respond on our behalf to the most dangerous situations in our community and area, when facing advanced, high-velocity weapons, we owe it to them to supply a safe vehicle for their transport and service at the scene. Similarly, if and when any person in our community may face danger themselves in such a situation, we want to have available a vehicle to rescue them if possible. (It is noteworthy that every Big 10 city except Bloomington has an armored vehicle in the community. And, BPD had such a vehicle for 12 of the past 18 years.) We shouldn’t send CIRT officers to dangerous scenes without the appropriate protection, which I believe includes an armored vehicle that can protect them and innocent victims from high-powered firearms.

This administration has made a major effort to replace and improve capital assets across every department in the city, and in particular in our public safety departments. The lack of a regular capital replacement schedule led to the city fleet decaying into disrepair, with inadequate fire protection equipment in 2015 and a lack of an armored CIRT vehicle for six years. We shouldn’t send firefighters to a fire scene without high-quality protective gear and a capable fire truck, and we shouldn’t send police officers to a highly dangerous scene without adequate protection.

We could disband our CIRT capabilities. As a community we have the option of not having a CIRT team at all, and thus no related vehicle. Under those circumstances our community would not face the potential challenges of an armored vehicle (and specialized officers) being misused by BPD or aggravating relationships between BPD and community members. However, in the event of a known situation of danger or active-shooter scene, we would likely depend upon a nearby community to send their SWAT/CIRT team here to help us. If such an event were to occur, we would not control what those officers’ training did or did not entail, and their accountability would not be to us, but to their department of origin. They might use an MRAP vehicle (a decommissioned US Military vehicle sold to local law enforcement) for their protection. The amount of time required to reach a local scene could negatively affect outcomes. They might not prioritize negotiation and de-escalation as highly as does BPD. We would be inviting a police force not accountable to our community into our community, explicitly for their ownership of specialized equipment. I do not believe that approach would best protect our community’s safety or reflect our mutual commitment to each other and our values. I believe it also would denigrate the outstanding training and capabilities of our BPD officers, which reflect our community’s values well.

What Kind of Vehicle is Needed?  

Determining an armored vehicle is needed for CIRT leaves the question what particular vehicle will best serve our community’s needs? That determination has been based on a rigorous assessment of approximately 100 different vehicles evaluated and re-evaluated according to a set of criteria outlining CIRT and community needs. According to these criteria, the vehicle should:

  • Be produced domestically

  • Not require specialized tools, parts or personnel for maintenance

  • Have armor capable of absorbing repeated high-velocity rifle fire

  • Hold at least eight uniformed, equipped officers

  • Be built on a non-military platform, such as Ford, Chevy or Chrysler

  • Use gas, not diesel, fuel

  • Have four-wheel-drive capability

  • Have sufficient electrical power to operate winches and exterior lights

  • Have standing General Service Administration or State of Indiana bid pricing to allow efficient purchase

A detailed review of the criteria, the rationale, and their application is available here. After consideration of approximately 100 potential vehicles by BPD experts, 9 vehicles met a majority of the criteria, but only two vehicles met all of the criteria and required no new operational training: the Lenco BearCAT and the Armor Group BATT-APX.

The Armor Group BATT-APX was eliminated because very limited operational history was available for the vehicle, versus a substantial and proven track record for reliability and functionality for the Lenco BearCAT. (It should be noted that the BATT-APX is visually at least as imposing as, if not more so than, the BearCAT).

The Lenco BearCAT is currently utilized by hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country. Some police departments have absolutely misused this vehicle. Lenco itself has produced advertisements that contribute to the perception that this vehicle has military-style applications. Concern around police militarization and abuse of such vehicles is legitimate and factored into the discussion around this vehicle. That concern prompted interest in and a review of the Lenco SUV as an additional alternative. The armored SUV has the appearance more of a heavy limousine/SUV, and is primarily designed to transport VIP personnel. It costs $35,000 more than the BearCAT, holds fewer people, and is not designed or as capable to perform rescue functions, including not supporting a winch or the ability to handle a ram to break down walls or move vehicles out of a path.

The key rescue components are the winch, which is a motorized cable that allows the truck to be towed and to tow other objects, and the rescue ram. The ram has been the focus of understandable public concern. In its intended use, the ram allows emergency service personnel to punch holes through walls. This was most famously demonstrated during the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, where a Lenco BearCAT with a ram punched a hole in the sidewall of the night club, freeing 30 people who had been trapped hiding in a bathroom. That is the intended use, but public fears based on misuse elsewhere were absolutely considered - and have had a direct impact on the deployment policy associated with the vehicle.

Aesthetically, the armored SUV looks more like the bank truck previously utilized by BPD, and for some concerned about a perceived or real “militarization” of the police, this is a positive. From a functional standpoint, the vehicle also has many of the same limitations that the bank truck had: it cannot mount rescue equipment; and it cannot transport as many individuals, public safety officers, and bystanders as can the BearCAT. In many shared images, a model of the SUV is shown lacking “gun ports,” openings in the vehicle that allow officers to fire weapons, either non-lethal or lethal, from inside the vehicle.

How a vehicle looks and how the public perceives the vehicle should be considered, and those concerns have prompted several changes in the vehicle to be obtained, but ultimately this vehicle, or any equipment we purchase for our police department, is provided to enhance safety, and is governed by formal policy. On balance, I do not support purchasing a more expensive, less effective piece of equipment, based on aesthetics alone. That would be a disservice to our officers and potential victims, and to the very serious concerns around how these vehicles would be used.

From its inception our CIRT team was designed for hostage rescue, and the focus on negotiation and peaceful resolution has remained for 30 years - through different police chiefs, mayors, city council members, and police officers. What unfortunately has also changed is the lethality of shooting incidents with guns. That combination, and my continued belief that policy, training, and accountability can appropriately limit the risk of misuse, drive my decision to support the Lenco BearCAT as opposed to the Lenco SUV.

How Should Such a Vehicle Be Used?

The CIRT vehicle is primarily intended to be used in one of three scenarios: transport to and from a dangerous area, use as movable cover for officers and bystanders, and use as a movable secure position to negotiate with a suspect. Other potential uses include using the vehicle to enable the use of less-than-lethal weapons at closer proximity, or other tactical maneuvers to end a dangerous situation.

The most common use of the vehicle will be to transport law enforcement and/or bystanders to and from an emergency situation or a potentially dangerous scene. Modern active-shooter events, and even many isolated barricade situations, can involve military-style rifles capable of penetrating a wide array of armor. This vehicle will be the only civilian vehicle in the area that is capable of absorbing sustained gunfire without suffering degradation. In the event of injuries or innocent bystanders at such a scene, the vehicle can operate much as an ambulance would.

The vehicle may transport CIRT members to and from scenes where warrants for arrest or search in known or expected highly dangerous circumstances justify extraordinary precautions.  The utilization of SWAT teams in aggressive warrant service in some communities has rightly been at the focus of the debate around police militarization. In other communities, tools and tactics presented as primarily required for active shootings, hostage rescue, or barricaded subjects have instead primarily being used service of warrants. In 2016 and 2017, BPD CIRT was deployed for 9 search and 4 arrest warrants, out of hundreds served annually. The CIRT deployments were authorized in compliance with the deployment matrix and represented the most potentially dangerous warrant service situations faced by our officers, typically due to the presence of dangerous firearms, individuals known for a history of violent behavior, or the potential need for a crisis negotiator.   

The vehicle also offers officers the ability to position the vehicle as protective cover from gunfire when needed. Currently officers have no way safely to approach a barricaded suspect through open terrain. This inability to create cover prolongs stand-offs and increases the danger for the officers and the suspect. Allowing officers to position themselves in defensive positions to use less-than-lethal methods, observe the suspect more clearly, or change tactics, can facilitate pursuing a resolution that avoids a loss of life.

As a negotiation platform the vehicle enables CIRT’s trained crisis negotiators to negotiate with the suspect from the most tactically advantageous position. Negotiation is an integral part of BPD’s CIRT team and currently negotiators are deployed from an unprotected SUV at a distance from the scene. Currently negotiators rely on the observation of other CIRT team members for visual confirmation of how a negotiation is progressing. This can strain the tenuous bond between the suspect and the negotiator.

 

How Should Such a Vehicle NOT Be Used?

There are numerous situations where the vehicle should not be deployed. It’s not appropriate to deploy the vehicle as crowd control at a protest, as crowd control at a sporting event or concert, as part of routine police work, or in any of the numerous situations BPD faces that do not warrant the deployment of a CIRT team.

This vehicle is a specialized tool to be used by the CIRT team in the pursuit of peaceful resolutions to dangerous situations. It is absolutely not a tool available to patrol officers as a part of routine police work. The vehicle will be secured in a police department facility with controlled access, away from public view.

What Kind of Oversight and By Whom:

Currently the CIRT team is governed by Bloomington Police Department General Order: Critical Incident Response Team which outlines when the team should be deployed. This order outlines that deployment is for crisis situations involving weapons, hostages, barricaded individuals or for the service of high risk warrants based on how an incident scores on the CIRT deployment matrix. That matrix must be reviewed and approved by multiple levels of chain of command at BPD, culminating in a decision by the Chief of Police. The use of the CIRT is consistent with the applicable recommendations made in the ACLU’s 2014 “WAR COMES HOME - The Excessive Militarization of American Policing”. Data about the CIRT team is included in the general BPD data sets released to the Police Data initiative and on B-Clear, the City of Bloomington’s open data portal.

The vehicle will be subject to a similar amount of oversight and control, before, during and after use in an emergency situation. Protocols for use of the vehicle will govern the situations it can be deployed, where it can be deployed, who authorizes its use, the conditions required to deploy the accessory equipment and the post-event reporting procedures. These documents will be shaped by the police department and approved by the Board of Public Safety. The Board of Public Safety will establish a regular cadence to publicly review the deployment of the CIRT team, the vehicle itself, and the accessory equipment like the rescue ram and winch.   

It is useful to note that in some situations, only part of the CIRT will respond to a call, based on the situation. The appropriate level of response will be determined for each incident, individually. In other words, some incidents will require the deployment of more officers and equipment than others. That also includes the vehicle which may not be sent on every deployment.

It is also useful to note that the BPD CIRT team is composed of BPD officers as well as Monroe County Sheriff Deputies and IU police officers. This collaboration is encouraged as best practice by most national standards for CIRT teams, and both the Sheriff Department and the IU administration are committed to continue the collaboration to assure appropriate use and deployment of the CIRT officers and vehicle. Additionally the IU Health Bloomington Hospital has assigned full time paramedics to the team for immediate medical care situations. CIRT was one of the first teams in the nation to integrate paramedics in this role.

DECISIONS AND  RECOMMENDATIONS:

After thorough consideration, and reflecting full consideration of public input and public safety requirements, I am announcing the following directives and recommendations:

  1. I am directing the BPD to proceed with the purchase of the LenCo BearCat with the following changes:  

    1. to change its color from dark blue to light gray;

    2. to reduce gun ports from nine to four - one on either side of the vehicle and two on the back doors;

    3. to identify the vehicle with the word “RESCUE” and the logo of the BPD prominently displayed; and

    4. to store the ram separately, unattached to the vehicle in normal use, with separate authorization for deployment

  2. I am directing the BPD and the Board of Public Safety to review and develop deployment protocols and an updated scoring matrix, after public comment, to govern all deployments of the CIRT team and vehicle. The proposed protocols should outline explicit conditions for use and prohibit the militarization of the vehicle, specifically include the prohibition of affixing any kind of armament, water hose, or projectile-launching device to the vehicle.

  3. I am directing the BPD:

    1. to at least maintain if not increase current levels of de-escalation, implicit-bias, and other training efforts to promote equity in our community and policing;

    2. to offer regular, specific public engagement opportunities with the CIRT Team;

    3. to continue participating in the Police Data Initiative and increasing the amount of raw data available for public review;

    4. to review the current online system to accept citizen complaints in additional ways; and

    5. to complete their pursuit of CALEA accreditation.

  4. I am directing the Board of Public Safety to conduct regular public reviews of the use of the vehicle and the CIRT team, including instances of deployments, use of the threat matrix, effectiveness, public concerns, and other issues as determined by the Board or directed by the mayor

  5. I am recommending to the City Council that they pass a resolution prohibiting the use of the vehicle in general crowd control, prohibiting the militarization of the vehicle with armaments or similar attachments, and prohibiting the vehicle’s use absent adoption of policies and procedures by the Board of Public Safety.
     

CONCLUSION

This issue elicits strong opinions from various directions. The stakes are not insignificant: it can be life and death for officers or residents. and justice, peace and respect for people who have historically suffered racism or mistreatment from governmental authorities. Democratic processes are how we reach resolution of such issues – public discussions, open debate, and decisions by elected and appointed officials, with accountability and oversight through public institutions like the city council, the public safety board, administration officials, and ultimately elections.

Presuming to speak for all of us involved in this decision, we appreciate all the input and views shared by so many caring and committed folks of Bloomington. And I have made a set of decisions that I hope and believe chart one path forward in this imperfect world, to help Bloomington be safer, more civil, and more just for all. I know all won’t agree with every part of this approach, and some may disagree with every part. I hope and trust that we can continue to work together, democratically and collaboratively, to improve our city for all who live, work, study, and play here.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

Associated Document Depository

All documents related to this discussion are available on the City’s website by clicking here.

Reasons Offered Not To Purchase a Vehicle

The primary arguments offered against purchasing an armored vehicle (or a particular type of vehicle) appear to center around a few key assertions: Bloomington police and/or residents do not face danger that justifies such a vehicle; national statistics demonstrate that police departments use SWAT teams and armored vehicles to terrorize or discriminate against communities of color and the poor; and the vehicle (and associated training) would “militarize” the police department and change them into more of an occupying force or encourage a warrior mentality. In addition, general concerns reflect the national discussion about inappropriate police use of force, implicit bias, inadequate approach to de-escalation, and overall lack of investment in preventive efforts, including mental health, poverty, housing, economic equity, judicial system bias, and more.

A companion to this argument is the suggestion that the CIty should not invest funds in an potential armored vehicle when it could potentially redirect that money towards social service agencies or alternatives to direct investment in policing.

There is no doubt that every law enforcement agency across America has room for improvement on the above points. And no one, not me, not the administration, not the chief of police, nor the police department as a whole will assert that our police department is perfect or immune from the things that happen elsewhere. Our police department must grapple with these issues like every good law enforcement agency should. The data that they publish, the programs they’ve supported, and their long history of community engagement attest to the seriousness with which BPD approaches these issues. National statistics and analysis, on policing and militarization, often give BPD clarity on what not to do. Especially in the context of research on how training and tools can alter a departments culture, BPD has engaged with this literature and internalized the need for these tools to conform to our values - and not let the tools change our department.

This vehicle has a price tag of $225,000, but amortized over its 20 year lifespan it represents a $10,000 annual investment. Over the past four years, BPD has allocated $100,000 of its annual budget to directly fund work by social service agencies like Centerstone and the Shalom center. In 2013, BPD created the Downtown Resource Officer program explicitly to help serve at-risk communities. They have close working relationships with social service providers and wear white polo shirts instead of a traditional police uniform. Collaboration with social service agencies is a critical part of BPD’s day to day operations.  National concerns, while always relevant, should not determine our path forward with our local Bloomington Police Department. Going forward we must remain mindful of the cautionary tale the misuse of armored vehicles in other communities like Ferguson, Missouri tells us and continue to embrace and promote the guardian and protector approach to all police work in our community.

A separate argument has been that the process of purchasing the vehicle was not transparent enough and has so significantly damaged trust between the community and the police that the vehicle should not be purchased without a new, extended public process. The central part of this argument is the reallocation of funds from a proposed construction project to vehicle purchase should have been preceded by full budget discussions, and wider public debate. While a wider public discussion of the purchase absolutely should have taken place prior to the order being placed, that public engagement has occurred in great measure over the last seven weeks. We’ve hosted three meetings, one by City Council and one by Police Chief Mike Diekhoff to allow for extensive discussion and engagement on the issue. In the end, the reasons for or against such a purchase, after extensive engagement, must stand on their merits, as outlined in detail throughout this document.

The Historical Decision To Have An Armored Vehicle

The original decision to purchase an armored vehicle was made in 2000 after a man shot his girlfriend and then opened fire on police. Without any safe way for police to approach the house, the woman died of her wounds at the scene.  During the twelve years of service by the original CIRT vehicle (a modified retired bank armored vehicle), the vehicle provided protective cover where there was none, both for the officers and innocent bystanders fleeing from harm’s way. The truck was never deployed as crowd control or in response to a protest. The truck was an extension of the CIRT team’s guardian/protector culture: to end exceptionally dangerous situations without the loss of life. The vehicle eventually became unsustainable and was scrapped in 2012. For the past six years the CIRT has operated without this protection, and with nothing to offer a person approaching or fleeing danger.

History of the CIRT Team

Formation of the Team

The history of the formation of Bloomington’s Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) began in 1986 in anticipation of the Pan Am games hosted in Indiana including at Indiana University venues. Hostage situations at similar events, and the inability of law enforcement to respond adequately, had recently ended in tragedies. These incidents inspired law enforcement agencies to invest in training and equipment for the specific purpose of rescuing hostages. The team was originally formed and staffed by IUPD with BPD and the Sheriff’s department joining in some years later. The Pan Am games came and went without incident.  The CIRT has remained part of local law enforcement since.

The name Critical Incident Response Team was not chosen at random. In the 1980s, as there is now, there was concern about the prevalence of SWAT (special weapons and tactics) teams and their behavior. CIRT was founded to provide local law enforcement with tools and training necessary to address crisis incidents involving firearms, hostages, and crisis negotiation. That driving goal, and respect for the rightful concerns around police militarization, led IUPD to select a name that reflected the units culture and differentiated the team from SWAT initiatives.

In 1998 IUPD ended its participation in the CIRT team with the retirement of the team leader. The team was continued by BPD and adopted “Fidelis Custodes” or faithful guardians as its motto. In 2004 IUPD rejoined as a participating agency, the sheriffs office followed a year later and Bloomington Hospital Ambulance Service joined in 2007.  During those thirty-plus years, the critical incident response team has served the community, responding to volatile, dangerous situations with professionalism and valor.

Throughout the entire debate about the CIRT team no comments from residents critical of the CIRT team’s behavior have been received. Of course this is not to say that BPD has never made a mistake, as a department or by an individual officer. But BPD is among the most transparent, innovative, and responsive departments in the nation. They are a leader in open data participating in the Obama White House Police Data Initiative and, following the 2014 riots in Ferguson, MO they were invited by the Obama Administration’s DOJ to advise police departments nationally about how to appropriately maintain the peace at a protest. It’s true that we have much to work on, but we have so much to be proud of.   

CIRT Utilization and Data

A common criticism of SWAT teams, and police departments in general, is that there is no data available by which to judge their actions. This makes understanding the prevalence of their deployments, the outcomes of their deployments, and other salient factors difficult to understand. In 2016, Mayor Hamilton directed BPD to review and comply with President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Report. As a part of that, BPD began posting raw data to the Police Data Initiative and B-Clear. CIRT calls have been included in those raw data releases giving residents insight into Use of Force data and Calls for Service data. Additional data has been released throughout this discussion. In 30 years, the CIRT team has been involved in three officer-involved shootings: two involved individuals holding hostages at gunpoint and ended with fatal shootings of the perpetrator. The third ended with the wounding of a perpetrator who recovered. All three incidents ended only after hours of negotiation. All three suspects were white. Data is posted quarterly on the police data initiative and B-Clear, visualizations are available at BloomingtonRevealed.com.

 

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