June 19, 2019
Dear Community Members,
I am a recent addition to your community police department. I arrived here with 38 years of police experience in departments ranging in size from 26-340 officers, serving populations of 12,800-140,000 in very urban areas to mostly rural ones. I am not an expert in anything, but have a lot of various experiences from those places.
Although I was not the Riley County Police Department Director when the decision to acquire a Bearcat was made, I would have made the same decision. The purpose of the recent public introduction of the Bearcat was not to show off or intimidate anyone, but to be transparent regarding this acquisition and the reasons for it. This vehicle was not purchased with tax dollars, but with seized assets acquired from criminals in accordance with statutory guidelines.
Many years ago, police officers started wearing body armor to protect themselves from serious and fatal injuries from gunshots. In the aftermath of Columbine, many departments started equipping patrol cars with hand-held, portable ballistic shields made from similar materials to protect themselves when tactics changed and officers began entering dangerous situations without the benefit of a SWAT Team (ours is the Emergency Response Unit-Tactical Team). These decisions were made in the past to better protect police officers from harm. Acquiring the Bearcat was done for similar reasons. It is a fact that the aforementioned decisions have resulted in 3,000 fewer police officer fatalities (National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs – October 2018) from gunfire and to my knowledge has not generated any less trust of the police or resulted in unnecessary harm to our citizens.
The Bearcat is built with materials designed to protect police officers from gunfire when they need to get close to a threat, to rescue injured citizens, police officers or other first responders. I have personally witnessed an hours-long barricade by a wanted person in a house end peacefully as soon as a Bearcat from a neighboring jurisdiction pulled up to the scene and approached the house. The wanted person exited the house with his hands up and surrendered; no shots fired, no force used and no one injured. I could offer similar examples.
Finally, it is important to know that every time the tactical team is requested, the team members complete a threat matrix that I or the assistant director must approve. The matrix is used to determine how many tactical members are deployed, what equipment is used and the tactics needed to employ the minimum amount of possible force to achieve the objectives in addressing criminal activity affecting this community. This matrix will determine if the Bearcat is deployed. We have already had instances where it was not.
We will continue taking the Bearcat to public events to educate our community. Irrespective of your opinions regarding the need for this piece of equipment, I urge our citizens to attend one of these events and ask questions about it to better educate themselves.
Dennis P. Butler