Renewed controversy over possible purchase of Norman armored vehicle

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NORMAN, Okla. - There is renewed concern over the militarization of police in Norman.

Controversy continues as talks reemerge about purchasing an armored vehicle for police.

In August of 2015, the city council tabled making a decision.

The issue is not back on the city council’s agenda yet, but the financial committee is set to discuss the possible purchase of a BearCat at Thursday night’s meeting.

"I can't get people to understand that it's not a military vehicle," said Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey.

Humphrey said a BearCat is a rescue vehicle that can save victims of tornadoes, floods and other potentially deadly situations.

"If you have someone that's in an active shooter situation, this allows you to go in, evacuate people safely and then set up peaceful negotiations," Humphrey said.

The police department sees the need for an armored vehicle, but some residents do not.

"I think it would generate a level of mistrust. It shows the residents that the police don't feel safe just in the vehicle's they already have," said Kate Bierman.

Another concern is the bulletproof BearCat looks too militarized.

"It's really been used in protest situations and against the residents," Bierman said.

"I can't control what happened in Ferguson,” Humphrey said. “But, I definitely can control what happens here in Norman.”

The department said the BearCat would only be used in rescue and high-risk situations.

"I don't necessarily believe that having a vehicle like this will only be used in those situations," Bierman said.

The chief is asking the city to trust his request to help save lives.

"My responsibility is to live in a world of not if but when," Humphrey said.

A BearCat would cost around $280,000.

The Norman Police Department said the money to buy it would come from dollars seized from federal convicted criminals.

The chief said he is open to talk with concerned citizens and show them what would be the policy for a BearCat.

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