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SPD Outfits Armored Vehicle Amid Concerns about Militarization of Police

Matti Blume

Some Syracuse Common Councilors are questioning what appears to be a trend by the police department to add military hardware to its SWAT team.  The Council voted 6 to 1 this week to accept a $100,000 federal homeland security grant to outfit its 9-ton Bearcat armored vehicle with night vision, ballistic protection search mirrors, a pole camera, tubular assault equipment, among other items.
   Jean Kessner cast the lone "no" vote.  She says using military tools and tactics on domestic problems is the wrong approach. 

"Our neighborhoods should not be treated as war zones.  We have a serious problem in this city with gun violence.  But the way to solve that problem is not to treat the residents of our neighborhoods as if they in an armed camp of enemy combatants."

The Bearcat is not the only piece of military equipment at the police department’s disposal.  The county has its own Bearcat, which it can share with the city.  And in November, the Post-Standard reported the U.S. Department of Defense gave Syracuse a much bigger tank called an M-RAP from a military surplus program.  Kessner’s concern arises from the use of similar armored, military vehicles during protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by police.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at