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Norman City Council debates police department equipment, armored vehicle funding

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Norman City Council meeting on Oct. 11.

The Norman City Council discussed the purchase of the BearCat, an armored, all-purpose rescue vehicle, and an over $1.1 million budget appropriation for the Norman Police Department during a Tuesday study session.

The BearCat would cost $353,000, with SWAT team, Hazardous Devices Unit and bike team equipment replacement taking up the rest of the budget. Ballistic shields and blankets, respirators and canisters, BearCat training, drones and support equipment, and several other gear upgrades take up the rest of the proposal.

A vote to purchase the vehicle was initially scheduled for the Nov. 8 meeting but was taken off the agenda after several council members requested its removal. If approved, the vehicle would be purchased with civil asset forfeiture funds.

Seizure funds came primarily from interstate organized crime, according to Ricky Jackson, deputy chief of the NPD. Most funds are not seized from Oklahoma residents, Jackson said. 

The city has over $1.2 million from state seizure funds and about $200,000 in federal, according to Jackson’s presentation.

Jackson said many of the requested items are already in NPD inventory but are out of date, noting that this equipment helps deescalates incidents and increase safety of both officers and residents involved in dangerous situations. Some officers have turned to purchasing gear with their own money, according to Jackson.

Without the equipment, Jackson said the department will experience a decrease in their ability to respond to incidents, forcing them to rely on other agencies. He said that when requesting similar armored vehicles from departments in Moore or Oklahoma City, response times can span over an hour and a half.

These vehicles benefit officers in four scenarios, according to Jackson: hostage situations, active shooter events, water rescues and high-risk warrants.

Ward 7 Councilmember Stephen Holman said he had concerns about the BearCat but supported other items in the proposal, adding that he would like to look into other funding options.

Ward 6 Councilmember Elizabeth Foreman said she was not opposed to using seizure funds but wouldn’t be against the council exploring other options within the fiscal year, later suggesting the BearCat be funded through general funds, while other equipment is purchased using the seizure funds.

“If these items are a matter of priority and extreme, immediate need for our city, then they are worthy of us considering our general budget to use on them,” Holman said.

Ward 2 Councilmember Lauren Schueler also asked if there was a way to move the BearCat and vehicle training to a separate item from the other equipment requests to gauge public comment.

Council members agreed to separate the items on next week’s agenda.

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