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Editorial: Lodi police armored vehicle plan leaves questions

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Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014 12:00 am

Do we really need to spend $200,000 for an armored vehicle to be used by the Lodi Police Department SWAT team?

When we first heard about this idea, we were skeptical.

After all, there is much written now about the militarization of city police departments, and a fair amount of hand-wringing, too. Are the men and women sworn to protect and serve their community becoming hardened urban and suburban warriors? Are personal liberties eroding in favor of extreme security measures, including armored wagons rolling through our streets as drones hover above?

And weren’t we, just a few years ago, embracing community oriented policing, with a new emphasis on the old-fashioned: Officers walking a beat and talking with folks and getting to know the neighborhood?

How do you reach out to citizens from behind the bullet-resistant windshield of heavily armored vehicle?

Lodi Police Chief Mark Helms recently gave us some valuable perspective on this proposal.

First of all, the vehicle, known as a BATT, Ballistics Armored Tactical Transport, would be paid for by the Lodi Police Foundation, not taxpayers. The vehicle was requested by SWAT officers themselves, convinced it could help them do their jobs and perhaps save lives.

Also relevant is the fact that BATT would be a replacement vehicle, not some kind of ominous Black Ops expansion of the police department fleet.

For a number of years, the police department has owned a former armored car that was donated and clumsily adapted for police work. That vehicle is cramped, slow and only lightly armored. (The BATT’s armored skin can stop .50-caliber bullets and has a blast mitigating floor. It can hold up to 12 geared officers and hit 80 mph.)

Helms points out the BATT could give officers more security in serving warrants and doing searches. For instance, it might be equipped with a telescoping arm that could actually deliver high-risk warrants to the door of a dangerous ex-con.

The BATT vehicle could prove especially pivotal for incidents such as school shootings.

It used to be that a live shooter incident demanded a sometimes-cumbersome “surround and contain” process that could stretch into many long minutes.

“Meanwhile, the shooter would continue shooting,” Helms points out.

Now, the goal is a rapid response, with officers entering a building to locate and stop the shooter as soon as possible.

The new BATT vehicle would help with that, Helms said, since the big machine could roll right up to the door of a classroom or store or restaurant and allow direct and safer access for officers to go in after the culprit.

It’s not clear how much maintenance and operating costs will be over time, though Helms said the vehicle would probably be used on a very limited basis.

And as for the suggestion of the SWAT wagon reflecting a newer, less-gentle police department?

“It will be there only if we need it,” Helms said. “This is not something we plan to use patrolling the streets of Lodi.”

We don’t have a clear sense that the new BATT will be used any more than the old armored car sitting behind the police department, which has been rarely deployed.

Still, the idea of a $200,000 armored vehicle for the police department, with its ability to shield officers and potentially saves lives, seems far more plausible based on the chief’s explanation.

Sadly, Lodi is not Mayberry, if it ever was. And the idea of Andy and Barney keeping us safe with a blend of common sense and down-home intuition is, alas, an entertaining fiction.

“Times have changed,” Helms said. “We see violent people arming themselves with weapons and technology we didn’t see 25 or 30 years ago. We must keep up.”

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  • Jessie Abraham posted at 7:45 am on Mon, Feb 10, 2014.

    Abe Posts: 14

    There is a price too high to pay for the lives of our police officers--our civil liberties. Persons become police officers for various reasons--high pay, job security, high pensions, early retirement, workers compensation privileges, authority over others, variety, relatively low entrance requirements, and yes, the spice of danger. Some danger is part of the job description, and a major justification for all of the above. So these public employees have no complaint that they are exposed to danger from time to time. Unfortunately, as part of the general social trend toward a guarantee of absolutely no risk for everybody in life, the police want the same thing--but at too high a price, and ignoring the bargain they made when they entered this line of work.

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 8:56 pm on Sun, Jan 19, 2014.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 229

    Where as the heavy German tanks were a formidable machine the Germans did not win the war with it.

    I am sure you could pick up a Panzer for cheap.

    Not saying that the lives of our police officers should not be protected , because there can never be a price high enough to prevent that consideration. However, that is just doing that "politically correct " thing again and again.

    High speed chases in a tank ?

    We do have a unit in Lodi that is trained to use the Howitzer.

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 5:47 pm on Sat, Jan 18, 2014.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 229

    Naw , Mr. Sentinel.

    I agree that police needs are many but the core principles will always start with Mayberry.

    See a few more episodes and maybe you will see the deeper meanings of the show. What does the bullet in Barney's pocket signify and why is he only allowed to carry it on certain occasions? Why does Barney get extremely nervous when the pressure is on? Why a cooler head like Andy is in charge .

    The humanity of all of it. If the Lodi Police Dept. doesn't have all of that I am worried. I do believe however, that they do. They would not be human if they didn't.
    Respect and strength is hidden in there somewhere.

    Your last statement of "we must keep up" concerns me only in that it begins to look like the nuclear bombs race. The humanity viewpoint needs to again be reexamined in where the monies might be better spent. Prevention of a different sort is better instead of chasing after the fact. - But - you know that. I suppose both is necessary. The 12th man is out there too and is invaluable if you treat him right.

    I hope that this big tank of a machine proves to be a good but expensive mailbox stand.

  • Will Rainwater posted at 2:05 pm on Sat, Jan 18, 2014.

    Will Rainwater Posts: 35

    At least get the one with a submachine gun mounted on top!!!!

  • Simon Birch posted at 9:02 am on Sat, Jan 18, 2014.

    Simon Birch - Online Manager Posts: 139 Staff

    Thank you.

  • Jeff Tillett posted at 7:40 am on Sat, Jan 18, 2014.

    Jeff Tillett Posts: 531

    Please re-read the first amendment so you understand from whom your speech is protected. Hint: it is not protected from the LNS.

  • Billy Spears posted at 6:14 am on Sat, Jan 18, 2014.

    Billy S Posts: 7

    What happened to free speech? Since When Do my comments have to be submitted for approval ? Are you now the "Speech Nazi" for Lodi and if so, Who gives you the right to override the constitution of the United States ?

  • Billy Spears posted at 6:08 am on Sat, Jan 18, 2014.

    Billy S Posts: 7

    “It will be there only if we need it,” Helms said. “This is not something we plan to use patrolling the streets of Lodi.”

    Of course if it's needed to suppress the population in general then I guess it will be there if we need it.

    Since when do we need a armored police vehicle patrolling our streets? If they have it-rest assured they will use it !

    Just how many times have the police needed to protect themselves from a 50 caliber bullet in Lodi ? EVER?


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