This document provides information about the BPD’s planned purchase of a replacement armored vehicle.
What is an armored vehicle or CIRT vehicle?
An armored vehicle, commonly known as a Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) vehicle, is a heavy duty truck that has heavy metal plating on the sides, top and bottom in order to resist the penetration of bullets or other fragments. These vehicles are armored, not armed. Law enforcement armored vehicles have been in service with law enforcement since the 1930s.
The vehicle we are purchasing is a Ford F550 truck, plated with armor and outfitted to transport officers (CIRT) and civilians in crisis zones where they are at risk of death or serious injury. Its commercial name is BearCat, sold by Lenco.
A CIRT vehicle is designed to protect officers from known high-risk situations where a suspect is armed with a dangerous weapon. In this situation the vehicle itself, due to its armor, can make a lethal confrontation less likely as there is a reduced risk to the officers in approaching the suspect to try and end the situation. Such a vehicle also can allow rescue of injured or threatened victims in dangerous situations (e.g., a wounded person still in a line-of-fire zone).
Similarly the CIRT vehicle provides for a safe and secure area from which officers may undertake negotiations. The armor plating of the vehicle precludes the need to place the officers or the armed suspect in jeopardy while these negotiations are ongoing.
If it is determined that some level of force is needed to end a particular situation, the CIRT vehicle offers a way to more safely deliver less lethal munitions, potentially ending the confrontation without use of lethal force.
Background/BPD’s History of Armored Vehicle Use:
As gun sales soar and violence involving dangerous weapons threatens public safety, law enforcement agencies find armored vehicles very helpful in highly armed situations.
For over ten years the Bloomington Police Department maintained an armored vehicle for emergency use. The vehicle was acquired after a tragic event that saw a loss of life that might have been otherwise avoided. That vehicle was retired in 2012 and the Department has been without this tool since that time, relying on other law enforcement departments to bring their armored vehicles to a crime scene resulting in delay and added danger for residents and law enforcement personnel.
BPD’s CIRT is frequently asked to assist other agencies not only in Monroe County, but in the surrounding counties as well. When BPD previously owned an armored vehicle, they responded to Greene County and Owen County to assist their agencies making arrests in homicide cases. The new armored vehicle would be a regional asset.
CIRT vehicle use by police departments is not new but recently, at times, has caused some controversy. Unfortunately some law enforcement agencies around the country have used the vehicles in situations that are seen to have escalated violence rather than protect against violence. Inappropriate use of armored vehicles is a reasonable concern, and the BPD is very sensitive to that concern. In our community such a vehicle will be used only to protect public safety officers and residents in high-risk, violent situations.
When an armored vehicle helps law enforcement efforts in Bloomington:
Since 2012 when the last armored vehicle was retired due to poor condition, the Bloomington Police Department has been without the protection and capability afforded by such a vehicle, placing officers, suspects and innocent civilians at risk.
The CIRT vehicle will only be used at the direction of the Chief of Police and only to deal with situations in which a heavily armed threat is imminent or believed imminent. The use of CIRT and any special equipment utilized by CIRT is governed by department General Orders.
The lack of an armored vehicle added to the danger level faced by all involved in several recent local instances:
In September of 2000, BPD dealt with a violent event on Bluebird Lane. The suspect had shot his ex-girlfriend, then attempted to ambush officers who responded to the incident. He managed to hold off police for over 90 minutes until an armored vehicle from Indianapolis was able to arrive. It is unknown how the delay affected the outcome, but it was clear that BPD had no effective way to deal with the situation or provide immediate aid to the victim who ultimately died.
Most recently, In November of 2017, the Bloomington Police Department responded to a priority request for assistance from the Owen County Sheriff’s Office, where officers were under fire and at risk from an active shooter. Over the next 31 hours a combined task group consisting of the Bloomington Police Department Critical Incident Response Team, Morgan County SWAT and the Indiana State Police SWAT units attempted to safely end the hostage situation. In total the suspect fired at officers on 10 separate occasions during this event. Only the armored vehicles brought to the scene by other agencies offered any protection.
When is the use of a CIRT vehicle (an armored vehicle) NOT indicated?
The Bloomington Police Department has a long history and culturally ingrained methodology of dealing appropriately with protests and demonstrations that are considered a fundamental civil right, protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and part of Bloomington’s DNA.
On numerous occasions during the service life of BPD’s previous armored vehicle, BPD successfully responded to protests, demonstrations and other similar events, some of which became riotous in nature, yet BPD never deployed or contemplated the need to deploy either a tactical unit or an armored (CIRT) vehicle. BPD does not intend to change that approach, which has been successful in supporting the right of all to make their views known in ways that do not threaten fundamental community safety.
The BPD Critical Incident Response Team will employ the armored vehicle only when protecting our people and our community from the realities of highly armed confrontations that occasionally, unfortunately, occur in our region.
How is the vehicle paid for?
Revenue from the Public Safety Local Income Tax allocated to the City of Bloomington is paying for the vehicle. This is the typical funding source for public safety equipment purchases like police vehicles, fire trucks and other equipment required for the protection of public safety.
The vehicle is expected to have a functional life span of approximately 20 years.