City Council approves purchase of Armored Personnel Carrier for CPD

CPD will purchase a $200,000 Lenco BearCat.
Members of City Council listen to a Columbia resident during a scheduled public comment at Monday night's City Council meeting. The council approved the appropriation of funds for the Columbia Police Department to purchase an armored personnel vehicle.

In a 6-1 vote, the Columbia City Council approved the appropriation of funds for the Columbia Police Department to purchase an Armored Personnel Carrier at Monday night's meeting.

CPD determined that the Lenco BearCat would be the best replacement for the departments current APC.

The BearCat is designed to protect officers inside and to act as a shield from gunfire. The vehicle does not have any weapon mounting systems, CPD Chief Ken Burton said.

"It's primarily a hostage rescue vehicle or officer protection vehicle," Burton said. "There would have to be the potential for gun violence that would put our officers or citizens in danger for us to use it."

Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp voiced concerns over the lack of a complete history of APC use by CPD.

"When I saw the five years of data, it made me wonder what happened in years one to 16," Trapp said. "I still have many unanswered questions."

Additionally, Trapp expressed concerns over how such a vehicle would impact the community's perception of the police.

"I have concerns about public perception about how they view the police department and city government," Trapp said. "The best thing we can do to promote officer safety is to let the community know that we are not at war with them, we're here to support and protect them."

The APC offers added protection that ballistics vests and police cars do not, Burton said.

"Recently in public, the criminal element (seems) to be more willing to take on police with rifles," Burton said. "…no police vests can protect officers from rifle rounds."

The vehicle has a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years, according to a CPD news release.

In the past five years, the SWAT team has used an APC, the Peace Keeper, 18 times in scenarios of armed barricade subjects, wanted subjects, hostage situations and search warrant service, according to a CPD news release.

While officers might not use the vehicle on a regular basis, the protection it offers is invaluable, Columbia Police Officers Association Executive Director Dale Roberts said.

"It's an investment in something that you hope you don't ever have to use," Roberts said. "But just because you don't have to use it, doesn't mean you can go without it. It's like car insurance: you hope you don't need it, but you'd rather have it just in case."

Multiple council members also asked CPD to provide reports of how the vehicle is used in the future.

Twelve BearCats exist in police service in Missouri, most of which operate in areas surrounding Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield, according to a CPD news release.

CPD has invested $35,000 the last 11 years in maintenance for the Peace Keeper. The vehicle experienced engine and transmission failure, according to a CPD news release.

CPD received the Peace Keeper in 2001 due to a government surplus from the military after the Air Force used it for 19 years.

The ordinance appropriates $36,505 from asset forfeiture funds, $127,587 from fund balance, and transfer $63,495 from police autos to police trucks for the purchase of the vehicle. In total, the vehicle would cost more than $200,000.

Various Columbia residents did not agree with the use of forfeiture funds for the purchase. Using forfeiture funds for police department purchases has an inherent conflict of interest, Keep Columbia Free President Mark Flakne said.

"In our minds, the police gain their authority from the people," Flakne said. "One of the main mechanisms of policing the police is by granting or withholding funds. So when police find a way to fund themselves, it takes away on of the checks and balances the citizens have."

The Missouri Constitution states that police forfeiture funds should be used to fund the School Building Revolving Fund. However, if cases involve a federal agency, then funds go to the federal government which then return part of the funds to the city.

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