We, the undersigned, representing Not In Our Town Princeton, a multi-racial, multi-faith racial justice organization, have concerns about the proposed purchase of an armored tactical vehicle by the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office. This type of highly specialized vehicle costs about $300,000 and its usefulness is quite limited. In addition to the cost we are most concerned about how it will be used.
Over the past generation there has been a tendency for civilian police and sheriff’s departments to use military-style tactics, weapons, and vehicles. The change in policing methods comes at a financial and social cost to the community. This cost is both in the expense of tactical vehicles and equipment, but more critically, it is the cost of the disengagement of law enforcement from the communities being served, in particular communities of color.
The people in the community and on the street are no longer known as individuals but are seen as dangerous and as opponents. More powerful weapons and equipment are requested to deal with those opponents. Innocent people are at risk, and lives are lost from SWAT teams breaking into the wrong address and injuring or killing innocent people; citizens have died in standoffs in which buildings are destroyed or entire city blocks burned down.
Once military-style weapons systems have been purchased there is an incentive to prove the value of the purchase by using the equipment. And difficult situations such as armed standoffs and hostage negotiations, which require a range of exceptional skills and patience to defuse or neutralize, instead become an opportunity to use extreme force with little regard to the surrounding community.
We propose that the monies requested for this armored tactical vehicle instead be invested in programs that benefit the people of Mercer County. The Sheriff’s Office has specialized units such as K-9, Fugitive, and the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team, all of which provide valuable assistance to other law enforcement agencies in the county. In addition the Sheriff’s Office has supported other first responders during natural disasters and emergencies. Finally, the Sheriff’s Office has initiated and runs a number of worthwhile community service programs to benefit children, parents, and especially seniors. We feel that the Sheriff’s Office could better spend $300,000 on human resources rather than military hardware.
Join us in expressing your opposition to the proposed armored vehicle purchase by calling the Mercer County Freeholders and attending the Freeholder meeting on Thursday, September 12, at 6 p.m., Room 211 of Mercer County’s McDade Administration Building, 640 South Broad Street, Trenton.
Don Styker & Ted Fetter, Lawrenceville
Kani Ilangovan, M.D., West Windsor
Linda Oppenheim & Miki Mendelsohn, Princeton
Joyce Trotman-Jordan, Trenton