A LENCO Bearcat MedEvac displayed at a
public meeting Jan. 7 in San Leandro.
The police department’s application for state homeland security funds to purchase the vehicle, known as Lenco Bearcat MedEvac, has raised questions in the community over whether small urban cities like San Leandro have a need for military-style equipment like the armored carrier.
Earlier this month, with the MedEvac vehicle on display, law enforcement and residents discussed the proposal at a well-attended public meeting. Despite the police department’s contention the MedEvac is unique to the area and potentially a life-saving tool for officers and the public, a vast majority of public comments were in opposition. The militarization of local police forces across the country was a primary concern.
Some San Leandro council members have hinted they would support the joint purchase of the MedEvac , which also includes the Alameda County Fire Department and Fremont Police and Fire. However, they also indicated placing restrictions on the MedEvac’s use in San Leandro.
In the rescue vehicle policy included in Monday night’s agenda, the police department says the vehicle “shall not be deployed during non-violent demonstrations, including for crowd control and crowd management.” However, unless there is a finding by police a risk of injury or death to an officer or the public exists.
In addition, the MedEvac may be deployed in the event of a declared unlawful assembly and after a lawful dispersal order “where persons are engaged in criminal behavior that presents an objective risk of injury or death.”
Despite a rising number of municipalities nationwide receiving military-style vehicles like those seen during protests this fall in Ferguson, Mo., San Leandro’s proposed purchase in not military surplus, but part of a grant San Leandro Police sought last year.
The City Council will be voting to accept the $200,000 grant from the State Homeland Security Agency and to appropriate $50,000 from its asset forfeiture fund. Another $50,000 is to be contributed by the City of Fremont, according to staff.
Proponents say, although similar Bearcat armored personnel carriers exist in the region, none have the medical emergency capabilities of the MedEvac. In the past, San Leandro Police has borrowed armored personnel vehicles from Hayward, Alameda and Union City, but according to the department, never exclusively used for medical emergencies.