The same day four suspects opened fire during a jewelry store , Newark's city council unanimously voted to allow Newark police to sign an agreement to purchase an that could be used during high-risk incidents.
And while the decision was made unanimously among the five-member council, Newark residents spoke out against the purchase.
Newark resident Margaret Lewis said funds used to purchase the vehicle could be used for other services, such as re-opening the city’s community center, establishing more after-school programs and eliminating city furlough days. Newark’s city offices are closed every other Friday.
Lewis also said she opposed the purchase of the vehicle because neighboring agencies have similar resources.
Similar vehicles are currently used by numerous law enforcement agencies, including neighboring police departments in Fremont, Union City and Hayward.
But Newark police currently does not have vehicles that protect its officers from ballistics, such as gunshots, projectiles and explosions, according to city staff.
The Lenco BearCat would act as armored protection for the police department’s patrol and SWAT officers and innocent citizens in emergency situations, such as “barricaded (armed) subjects, school shootings, terrorist attacks, and other active shooter incidents,” according to city documents.
In those documents, Police Chief James Leal added it would take at least 30 minutes to have those resources made available from outside agencies and the delay could put the department in a major disadvantage when it comes to rescue.
Other Newark residents who spoke in support of obtaining the armored vehicle emphasized the significance of time when it comes to threatening scenarios and public safety.
Jim Lola said he’s been in situations where an armored rescue vehicle was beneficial to him and noted his understanding is armored rescue carriers primarily have two purposes: to transport law enforcement officers to hazardous situations and withdraw innocent civilians from dangerous areas.
“Time is always of the essence. I actually do support the use of armored rescue carriers,” Lola said.
Newark resident Tim Jones, who also works part time for the police department, also noted time is important when danger escalates and said Thursday’s armed robbery at is a prime example of where an armored rescue carrier could have been valuable – had the situation worsened.
Although no one was injured in that robbery, authorities said four men, all armed with semi-automatic handguns, entered inside of NewPark Mall, smashed display cases and opened fire. They fled through JC Penney’s and into two vehicles.
“That situation could’ve been escalated to a very bad situation, very quickly, had the …[suspects’ escape] plans gone sour,” Jones said. “You had a [nearby] full of small kids. We had lots of people at the mall shopping with their families and kids. We had four guys with four guns…That situation could’ve got really ugly really quick.”
He said if someone had been wounded Thursday or becomes wounded in a similar act of violence, time becomes crucial.
“We don’t have 30 to 40 minutes to wait for Fremont or Union City to bring their carrier over,” Jones said.
The cost to lease the vehicle is $161,000, according to city documents, and the would have the option to purchase the armored personnel carrier for $1 at the end of the lease’s term.
A new Lenco BearCat armored vehicle could cost approximately $340,000, city documents state.
According to the agenda, the cost would be $28,000 in the first year and $17,000 for six years after. The costs, according to staff, would be offset by transferring funds from the police department’s tow fund into the city’s general fund expenses related to traffic safety and overtime, according to the agenda.
The net expense for the city of Newark would be approximately $6,000 each year for seven years, which is included in the , according to city documents.
City documents show the vehicle to be purchased is refurbished and has less than 25,000 miles. Its life expectancy ranges from 25 to 30 years.
Do you agree with the council’s decision to allow the purchase of an armored rescue carrier? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.