City Council approves funding for new armored vehicle

Monday, April 1, 2013 | 10:40 p.m. CDT; updated 11:30 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 2, 2013

COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council voted 6-1 to approve funding to purchase a new armored vehicle for the Columbia Police Department.

The council approved the use of about $227,000 in local revenue and police forfeiture funds to purchase the vehicle, a Lenco BearCat, at its Monday night meeting.

The Police Department has been using a 1982 Cadillac Gage Peacekeeper since 2001. The armored personnel carrier is 30 years old and has 27 documented mechanical or electrical failures that resulted in more than $35,000 in repair costs, according to a Police Department report to the council. It had been used by the Air Force for 19 years before moving to the Police Department.

The life expectancy of armored vehicles is 20 to 25 years, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton said.

At the March 18 council meeting, the vote on whether to purchase the armored vehicle was tabled. The council said it wanted to collect more data on how and when the vehicle was used. A report with additional information was presented at Monday's meeting.

Council members expressed concern about its use in situations where there are large crowds, such as riots. Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp, who was the only council member to vote against funding an armored vehicle, said he did research and found that there are cases where an armored vehicle was dispatched to a "crowd situation."

"I am worried about those fringe situations where it (the armored vehicle) will be sent out, and someone will be run over by the vehicle," he said.

Trapp said he still didn't have enough information to approve funding the vehicle and wanted the vote to be tabled for a second time.

Trapp and other council members asked the Police Department to provide information about when the new vehicle is dispatched to make sure it is being used appropriately.

"We don't want it being used to go to McDonald's," First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt said.

Some members of Keep Columbia Free expressed their concern about how the vehicle will be used.

"This vehicle represents a 10,000 pound hammer," Jim Chappelow said. "We expect vigilance in the use of this vehicle."

Burton, who spoke at the meeting before the members voted, said the department would provide information about when the vehicle was deployed in its reports to the council.

Burton made it clear that the vehicle was necessary for the protection of police officers.

"Nothing we have can protect our officers from rifle rounds," he said.

He also assured the council members that the department will be vigilant in how the vehicle is used.

"It will not be used as an intimidation factor," he said.

In a report to the council, the Police Department indicated that the vehicle can be used in a number of different scenarios, including when armed suspects barricade themselves or for arrest warrants of potentially dangerous people, such as murder suspects.

The report said the current armed vehicle was last used in September 2012 after the Columbia SWAT Team was activated to respond to an incident reporting multiple shots being fired in a residential area.

Burton said the armored vehicle isn't deployed in every SWAT situation. The report said the vehicle has been deployed 18 times in the past five years, though the SWAT Team was activated 66 times during that same period.

"It (the armored vehicle) is primarily a hostage refuge vehicle and a police protection vehicle," he said. "It is left up to the SWAT commander to decide when to use it."

Burton said the department will look into establishing tighter guidelines for using the armored vehicle.

Dale Roberts, executive director for the Columbia Police Officers' Association, said he was concerned with establishing restrictive guidelines for using the armored vehicle.

"It's like surgery. It's hard to write guidelines for all circumstances," he said.

Council members also expressed concern about the use of $36,500 in police forfeiture funds to purchase the vehicle.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said she thinks the council needs to consider whether police forfeiture funds should be used by the Police Department to fund things such as armored vehicles.

Mark Flakne, president of Keep Columbia Free, said his issue with using police forfeiture funding is not one of legality, but morality.

The council's vote comes two weeks after the Columbia Police Officers' Association made what Mayor Bob McDavid called a "racist" post on its Facebook page. The officers' association posted the comment after the vote was delayed at the council meeting March 18.

Roberts has since apologized for the comment, which was deleted from the association's Facebook page shortly after it was made.

In other council action, a rezoning request by MFA Oil Co. to build a Break Time gas station and convenience store at Rock Quarry Road and Grindstone Parkway was tabled until the April 15 meeting. The council will decide whether to approve the rezoning of the 2-acre site from agricultural to planned commercial property.

Missourian reporter Tony Puricelli contributed to this report.

Supervising editor is Karen Miller.

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Barbara Hoppe April 2, 2013 | 9:19 a.m.

I was surprised the Missourian did not mention the vote on the electronic neon sign moratorium. The Planning and Zoning Commission asked for an extension on the moratorium to get public comment on their recommendations for an ordinance governing electronic signs. The Mayor, Nauser, Kesphol and Dudley defeated the extension & the moratorium will expire on April 15, unless we get new blood on the Council who cares about the character and appearance of Columbia and will respect the hard work of staff and P&Z and prior decision of Council in Oct 2012 that started this process. Without the moratorium extension, electronic, neon, digital and flashing signs of all sizes will be allowed in windows downtown and throughout the City, before we can get measures are in place to regulate these types of electronic signs. Once in place they will be grandfathered in & not subject to any future ordinance.(Take a look at the one on the corner of College and Business 70 ). A bad "sign" of future decisions you can expect from the present Council.

(Report Comment)
frank christian April 2, 2013 | 9:33 a.m.

"A bad "sign" of future decisions you can expect from the present Council."

Sounds good to me.

(Report Comment)
Dave Overfelt April 2, 2013 | 10:03 a.m.

Did anyone ask if the police department could do without an Armored Personnel Carrier? Estimated repair costs of the new APC over 25 years? Does Jefferson City or Sedalia have one too? If we REALLY need an APC, is there any way we could have just one for the region? Maybe we could borrow one in a pinch...

Sure is an awfully large sum of money for a single vehicle that doesn't get used very often and could likely be replaced with something simpler if it really is seriously necessary.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance April 2, 2013 | 12:51 p.m.

I agree frank, today we can vote for Skala, Thomas, and Sullivan TODAY to start replacing the present council. What a good idea!

(Report Comment)
Mark Flakne April 2, 2013 | 1:28 p.m.

Barb, you vote to spend ill-gotten civil asset forfeiture dollars on an armored personnel carrier for our police while championing the fight against private lighted signs on private property. Who cares that that people's assets are being seized without due process? We must be protected from flashing lights.

Save us, Barbie Wan, you're our only hope!

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm April 2, 2013 | 1:58 p.m.

Does anyone else find it a bit unsettling that a councilperson is on an online comment forum calling out her fellow elected officials? It seems incredibly unprofessional, immature, and unbecoming to me.

I guess there are no decrepit buildings to save, developers to extort, or tax payer dollars to waste so Hoppe is trolling the message boards.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance April 2, 2013 | 5:53 p.m.

Barb needs to do more of that. Give them hell Barb. It's time to call those out who want to turn this town into the Vegas strip. I like the fact that she wants to inform readers of the whole story and not just the editor chose to cover. Also Mark has chosen to single out Hoppe when it comes to the vote. Trapp was the only one to vote against it. It is funny how one man and a blog gains you credibility in a news starved world.

(Report Comment)
Mark Flakne April 2, 2013 | 6:40 p.m.

Hoppe singled herself out by posting here, rebuking the Missourian for choosing to report on the use of dirty forfeiture dollars to purchase armored military hardware instead of the terrible flashing signs that are holding our fair city hostage.

Besides the fact that limiting signage for private business owners is silly nanny-statism, it's a simple matter of priorities.

I did get a chuckle out of your "one man and a blog" comment. Thanks for that. Apparently you've failed to pay attention.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams April 2, 2013 | 10:29 p.m.

JackH: Hoppe, Graham, Scala, and Jacobs.

Some demonstrated meanness there.

Not our finest.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance April 2, 2013 | 11:05 p.m.

Frank is a prophet, except for the mayor, the council has flipped!

@Mark, you are not the first, you won't be the last. If I had a nickel for every libertarian that played the lone wolf, I could retire.

(Report Comment)

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