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Massachusetts company shows off its military trucks for police, but did they help?

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Did you happen to catch any photographs from Watertown of heavily armed men pointing machine guns at civilians taking photographs from the second floor windows of their homes? Here's one. The officer (or soldier?) depicted therein appears to be riding in a military humvee. But thanks to billions of dollars of funding from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), state and local law enforcement nationwide now have their own mighty military trucks.

Bear Cats, made by Massachusetts based Lenco Industries, were out in full force on the streets of Watertown during the chase to find the remaining suspect, 19 year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It isn't clear whether any of those Bear Cats did anything useful during that search, other than ride around the streets of Watertown carrying heavily armed men as they searched house to house. I haven't seen reports suggesting that the Bear Cats performed any feats that any substantially cheaper (and less martial) police vans couldn't have managed.

Bear Cats would certainly be useful if police were battling grenade launchers and machine gun fire. But does every SWAT team in Massachusetts need one? Is this kind of urban warfare a likely scenario on our civilian streets and in our neighborhoods? And were the Bear Cats at all useful the other day in Watertown?

As a matter of fact, the officers being driven around in those enormous armored trucks did not find the young Tsarnaev during their house to house searches. He was instead located when the government finally called off the "shelter in place request" and a man went outside to smoke a cigarette. The man noticed his boat's tarp was askew, and checked it out. He found the young man inside, reportedly barely conscious.

But no matter about all those facts. The show of force was quite a show. And Lenco Industries, apparently unconcerned about being accused of crassly exploiting Boston's tragedy for considerable financial gain, has prepared a solemn video set to cheesy piano music to advertise its product using the Watertown hunt as a real life backdrop.

Take a look and see what our police forces have become. And keep in mind as you do that those trucks cost about a quarter of a million dollars a pop. 

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.