To hear all of the whining, you'd think the county just bought itself a police blimp.
The Davis County Sheriff's Office recently became the first kid on the block to own a BearCat, and apparently the purchase has managed to stir up all sorts of paranoid folks who see it as the beginning of the end for our free society. Honestly, the last time I recall seeing this much hand-wringing over a law enforcement purchase was when the Ogden Police Department announced plans to deploy an unmanned crime-fighting blimp.
The BearCat is made by Lenco, a Pittsfield, Mass.-based manufacturer of armored vehicles. The company's primary models are the B.E.A.R. vehicle and the BearCat vehicle. B.E.A.R. is an acronym for Ballistic Engineered Armored Response. The BearCat, a smaller version of the B.E.A.R., is based on a Ford truck chassis and adds "Counter Attack Truck" onto the end of its acronym. In both cases, the vehicles are basically armored personnel carriers.
How cool is the Lenco BearCat? So cool that it's been featured on the "Jay Leno's Garage" website. And so cool that I have no doubt that when the next high school is built in Davis County, the Fighting BearCats will be its official mascot.
I've been trying to work up some righteous indignation over my county owning one of these "mean machines," but I just don't feel the rage. I mean, I suppose the Davis County Sheriff could have purchased something less military-looking -- like one of those armor-plated limousines preferred by wealthy executives, which would have offered the added bonus of allowing deputies to travel from hostage crisis to bank holdup in style. ("Hey! A wet bar with bulletproof glasses!") But this BearCat thing just seems more practical.
And it's hardly the scary monster some are making it out to be. It's an armored vehicle, people. If it helps, think of it as a bread truck with really thick steel walls. And bulletproof glass. And, well, minus that heavenly aroma of just-baked goodness inside. (Although, at this point a cheekier columnist might point out the BearCat offers a faint whiff of America's favorite breakfast meat ...)
This is not to say that some folks weren't cagey about the BearCat in the beginning. Indeed, in a December story in the Standard-Examiner, county officials called the BearCat an "armored hazardous response vehicle." Which made it sound like its primary responsibility would be cleaning up jet fuel spills at Hill Air Force Base.
And according to that same news article: "Davis County Commissioner Bret Millburn said the BearCat will be a fantastic tool in the event of an earthquake." Seriously? Better than a bulldozer or a backhoe?
All well and good, but I'm pretty sure haz-mat cleanup and earthquake response isn't why the Davis County Sheriff's Office wanted a BearCat. The vehicle's primary purpose, near as I can figure, is to enable members of law enforcement to get into, around and out of dangerous places without getting shot. Period.
You wanna argue that buying the BearCat was a waste of money, and that you think it's overkill for tranquil, law-abiding Davis County? Fine. I can respect that. But kindly do not insult what little intelligence I have by trying to equate an armored personnel carrier with some sort of militaristic offensive weaponry about to be unleashed on unsuspecting citizens. Until they start mounting Davis County's BearCat with Stinger missiles or RPGs or flame-throwers, to me it's just a big ol' bulletproof vest on wheels.
And don't bother with that slippery slope argument, either -- at least, not until we get a bit more slip, or a bit more slope. Because if Davis County is going to declare martial law anytime soon, they're going to need more than just one of these things to keep the citizens' necks pinned beneath their oppressive jackboots. Let me know when officials put in an order for another half-dozen BearCats. Then we'll talk.
But for now, the primary selling point is that this thing protects the people in it -- or behind it -- from bullets. And when you've got a shooting victim lying injured in a parking lot somewhere, a big, bulletproof anything is just the ticket to position between shooter and victim.
I don't know. Maybe this whole BearCat dust-up is simply a public relations problem. Maybe it's just the perception that the vehicle looks menacing, what with its flat-black paint job and all. My suggestion? The sheriff's office ought to paint that thing in some sort of soothing pastel color, with a great big yellow smiley face and "Have a Nice Day!" on the hood.
Come to think if it, if Ogden had thought to do that with the police blimp idea, residents could be staring up at a fluffy little cigar-shaped cloud right now.
Go, BearCats, go! Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.