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Huntersville Police Chief Wants an Armored Vehicle

The Lenco Bearcat G3

The Lenco Bearcat G3

This is an open letter to Huntersville Chief of Police Cleveland Spruill in response to his attempt in last week’s Huntersville Herald to justify using taxpayer money to purchase an armored vehicle which read more like an advertisement for Lenco, Inc. than an objective news story. The story can be read here. I found it interesting that someone felt such a piece needed to be written to justify a single expenditure despite it already receiving the support of three Town Board members and the Mayor. Huntersville Commissioners Jeff Neely, Ron Julian, and Sarah McAulay, along with Mayor Jill Swain, voted on June 1 to approve the FY15-16 Budget which included a line item for $82,500 to be spent on a used “Bearcat” for the Huntersville Police Department. The used Bearcat has not been purchased at present.

The Huntersville Police Department is already the largest expenditure in the Huntersville operating budget by far (excluding enterprise and special revenue funds), with a recommended budget of approximately $10.5 million dollars for FY15-16, so what’s another $82,500, right? According to Chief Spruill in the Herald, “[Huntersville PD] officers and citizens deserve this kind of protection… Isn’t your life worth $82,000?” The problem with such a misleading argument is that any amount of spending for Huntersville PD will always be justifiable if it could ever possibly save the life of a single officer or civilian. But, we know Chief Spruill doesn’t consistently apply his own logic otherwise he would have budgeted for a Bearcat for every patrol officer, along with head to toe body armor and other protective equipment no matter the monetary cost. We live in a world of scarcity, however, so trade-offs like these are constantly made because it’s impossible to spend enough taxpayer money to ever guarantee officers and civilians protection from all harm.

Maybe the Chief wants a Bearcat because he grew accustomed to having access to one during his time with the Alexandria Police Department in Virginia, his post immediately prior to Huntersville, where it was frequently dispatched to such emergencies as the annual National Night Out celebration. Alexandria was at least better able to justify its most recent purchase of a Bearcat (apparently costing approx. $205,000 paid through a grant in 2013) because it has a population almost three times that of Huntersville, a higher crime rate, and is six miles from Washington, D.C., arguably one of the most dangerous cities in the country. But these relevant differences are summarily dismissed because the next school massacre could easily happen in Huntersville according to Chief Spruill who stated, “Some people say [school shootings] couldn’t happen in Huntersville… If you went to Columbine or Blacksburg the day before, what would they have been saying?” This is another misleading argument because the Chief is well aware that an armored vehicle played no part in stopping the killers at Columbine or Virginia Tech; the killers took their own lives in both cases.

Chief Spruill goes on to state it could take 45 minutes to an hour for the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department to deploy its Bearcat and head to Huntersville. This long response time is not acceptable to Chief Spruill; therefore, Huntersville must have its own armored vehicle. But, what if an armed intruder broke into your home while you were there which is exactly what happened this past Friday in the Stephens Grove neighborhood in Huntersville. How long would it take the police to arrive and would it be quick enough to prevent the intruder from doing harm? The Huntersville Police Department could purchase 100 Bearcats and it still wouldn’t be enough to prevent this type of individual from doing harm because the police cannot be everywhere at all times stopping all criminal activity, but also because we as a society have decided to sacrifice some level of security for freedom – another trade-off.

Lest anyone accuse me of being anti-law enforcement because they disagree with what I’ve written, my words are not intended as an indictment of the Huntersville Police Department, nor a critique of any current Huntersville police officer. I simply do not think spending $82,500 on an armored vehicle is a wise use of taxpayer money at this time and would argue other functions of town government should take priority, sidewalks for example. There is only $50,000 budgeted for sidewalks in the FY15-16 budget, but costs for planned sidewalk projects far exceed $50,000. Why not use the $82,500 for another needed stretch of sidewalk?

For these reasons, I would encourage anyone in agreement to contact the Town Board and Mayor and ask them to reconsider appropriating the funds for the Bearcat when Chief Spruill decides to make his purchase and it comes back before the Board for approval. Just a reminder, it’s an election year in Huntersville.

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