Chelsea Mellin

Opinions Editor


After plenty of international media attention, it’s finally official; the BearCat will be making its way to Keene. The decision became final after the city council meeting on March 1.

The large numbers of cameras and members of the media surrounding the decision prompted councilor Mitch Greenwald to proclaim, “I feel like Ryan Seacrest with all these cameras!”

The council voted 9-4 to reject Councilor Terry Clark’s proposed amendment, ultimately paving the way for the BearCat to come to Keene. Rather than having city council vote again on the issue, the council was instead instructed to vote on an amendment. The amendment would have reversed the council’s previous decision to accept the grant from the Department of Homeland Security.


In December, the council voted 13-1 to accept a $285,933 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to purchase a LENCO BearCat.

The BearCat is an armored vehicle primary used by SWAT, military police, and national police forces,  according to LENCO’s website.

Following some media coverage, the council’s decision caused a major uproar in the community, causing Clark to request the city revisit their decision.

Clark submitted a petition which contained 144 signatures asking the council to reconsider its decision.  This resulted in a public hearing at a Feb. 9 meeting of the city’s finance, organization and personnel committee. At this meeting, dozens of area residents spoke out in favor and in opposition to the city’s decision to accept the grant for a BearCat.

Before the meeting began, those who opposed the BearCat handed out fliers with city council members’ names, contact information, a statement of opposition, and even lyrics. The song was sung by opposers before and after the meeting; it included such lines as, “They’re telling that its to catch the terrorists, but they’ve set their sights on you and me.”

In addition to being the meeting where city council would vote on the amendment, it was also an opportunity for council members to state their views on the BearCat issue as it has been developing. Mayor Kendall Lane began proceedings by limiting the statements of the councilors, “Remember you are elected to act in the best interest of Keene…restrict remarks to local issues,” he said.

Clark said he was stunned by the public statements of LENCO Sales Representative Jim Massery. “He said, ‘People who oppose this must not care about the safety of the police.’ How dare he…this isn’t about police safety.”

Clark also cautioned city council members and the general public against getting caught up in the fear and shame, “When people don’t have facts, they use fear tactics and shame tactics, and that’s what has been used against us here,” he said.

Councilor Bettina Chadbourne commented that the large number of phone calls and emails she had received had impacted her decision. “I received 80 to 90 phone calls, saw hundreds of signatures on various petitions, and received about 30 emails…I really like that people care about this city.”

Also changing their vote was councilor Carl Jacobs. “I can’t support hypothetical needs over real needs,”  he said about the BearCat. Jacobs also expressed concern that the BearCat could possibly impact the way the community and the Keene Police Department interact with each other. “The Keene Police is a face-to-face group with their interactions and I worry the BearCat will create a wall.”

Despite three councilors changing their mind on the issue and voting with the amendment to ultimately reject the Homeland Security grant, the motion still had enough votes to be rejected, allowing the city to accept the grant and ultimately, the BearCat.

Following the vote, councilor James Duffy proposed another amendment in relation to the BearCat. “We need to learn how to live with it…people are afraid of this new development in our lives,” he said.

Duffy proposed that the city council be presented with semi-annual reports on all uses related to the BearCat and a yearly report on all spending related to the BearCat. The council approved this amendment 11-2.


Chelsea Mellin can be contacted at


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