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Tensions rise over armored vehicle for Bloomington police

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.-- Tensions grew Tuesday night in Bloomington as residents debated and questioned the potential purchase of an armored vehicle for police at a town hall event hosted by city council.

Bloomington Police Chief Michael Diekhoff said they last had a Critical Incident Response Vehicle in 2012 that was retired. They did not have the funds to replace it, but have since earned revenue through a public safety income tax passed in 2016.

"It's a defensive vehicle to protect the members of my department when they respond to high risk situations where usually gun fire is involved," Diekhoff said.

Last week he spoke out a public meeting on the issue and Tuesday he spoke in front of council members, alongside dozens of other people weighing in in front of a standing room only crowd.

Supporters argued it was about safety.

"We need it to protect the people that need to be protected," Bloomington resident David Schleibaum said.

Opponents argued they wanted the purchase of the vehicle halted, and a less militarized option.

"When we study the evidence what we see is that bringing these vehicles into the community changes the nature of policing and how police interact with the community and it makes police officers themselves less safe as well as citizens," Black Lives Matter Bloomington organizer Vauhxx Booker said.

At times, there were outcries from residents, boos and even expletives about the police shouted when supporters of the vehicle spoke. Black Lives Matter organizers asked those making those outcries to let speakers finish voicing their concerns.

There were also questions raised about the transparency of the process. Diekhoff said a contract with a company has already been signed, though no funds have been expended.

"I will admit that we did not do a good job of getting this out to the general public so you know we're hoping to make up ground now so people understand it better," Diekhoff said.

City Council President Dorothy Granger said she agrees with the concerns over transparency.

"I thought I had my mind made up about what we're doing, but people tonight were so impassioned and forceful in their comments both for and against this vehicle, that you know I'm gonna be open," Granger said.

Granger said one of the questions they are asking is what happens if they rescind the offer, though said she isn't saying they will or won't.

There are more public meetings planned next week on the issue.