Casper Council Approves $168,000 Purchase of Bearcat for Police
At the Casper city council meeting on Tuesday, the council agreed to the purchase of a used Lenco Bearcat for $168,872 for use by the Casper Police Department with only councilmember Kyle Gamroth voting against it.
Before the council talked about the bearcat issue, former vice mayor Steve Freel came up to speak in favor of purchasing the bearcat, and the positive impact it would have on the community.
"This is equipment that the police department could use, and it's not a piece of equipment that you can say no to today, and then if you end up needing it tomorrow, or four hours from now, or whatever it might be," Freel said. "You can't unring that bell...but the point being that after that council meeting ended, there was a double homicide four hours later, and the sheriff's department had to take their armored vehicle out and take it out into ranch land where a suspect was running around that had just killed two people, and they had to use that to extricate people out of ranches to get them to safety until they could find that suspect."
While every council member voiced their opinion, only Gamroth spoke at length about why he is against the purchase, with all others saying the bearcat will be good for the community.
Gamroth's main arguments were that the city is already spending $8 million for a new police building, along with raises for all the officers through the graves study and that the vehicle won't do anything to address the root cause of crime in the community.
"Not to go full broken windows here, but I believe that rather than investing our resources in ways to try to respond or mitigate the most serious crimes," Gamroth said. "I think we should continue our focus on infrastructure, which is deteriorating by every metric from what I've gathered during my 18 months on council, and I think that's important to note because it's hard to take pride in your community if it looks and feels like it's falling apart...Henry David Thoreau said that there are 1,000 hacking at the branches of evil for every one striking at the root. To me, upgrading the armor and weaponry of our police force is an attempt to hack at the branches. While the intentions are good, and that is to protect the lives of our officers, these efforts are reactive in nature in my opinion in response to the crime rather than an attempt to understand and prevent it from happening in the first place."
While Mayor Ray Pacheco and councilmembers Amber Pollock and Jai-Ayla Sutherland said they agree with Gamroth, they also think it's important to take do both, purchasing the vehicle to prevent harm to police while also addressing the root issues in the community.
Pacheco said that he wished the city had enough money to fund a public detox facility that people could use even if they didn't have insurance.
City manager Carter Napier said that he doesn't know how much such a facility would cost, as they haven't looked into it previously, but that a recent settlement with opioid manufacturers could provide the city with some federal funding to address that issue.
The approval of the purchase follows a work session that the council held on the vehicle on Aug. 9 where police chief Keith McPheeters told the council about the benefits the bearcat would bring.
While councilmember Sutherland said at that meeting that she is a little worried about the police department purchasing such a heavy-duty vehicle, McPheeters said that it could be used in rescue operations.
The Natrona County Sheriff's Office currently has a bearcat vehicle, but McPheeters said that it is important for the police department to have one as well so that they can still use one in a situation that may call for the use of both.
While the total cost for the vehicle itself is $169,725, according to the purchase order the department is also spending $14,552 on a gas injector unit and $1,936 on a ballistic skip round shield.
The order also includes a new navy blue paint job, red and blue LED lights, a high-capacity rear AC and heating system, a hydraulic front-mounted receiver with a ram post and plate, and a backup camera system, all of which aren't included in the cost.
The total order comes to $178,172, as a $19,277 discount was applied followed by $9,300 for shipping of the vehicle, however, Napier said that the police department will forgo the shipping cost because several officers will be traveling to pick up the vehicle and do some training with it.