Letters opposing the purchase of an armored vehicle by Mercer County

Why an Armored Vehicle for the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department?

To the Editor:

We, the undersigned, representing Not In Our Town Princeton, a multi-racial, multi-faith racial justice organization, have concerns about the proposed purchase of an armored tactical vehicle by the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office. This type of highly specialized vehicle costs about $300,000 and its usefulness is quite limited. In addition to the cost, we are most concerned about how it will be used.

Over the past generation, there has been a tendency for civilian police and sheriff’s departments to use military style tactics, weapons and vehicles. The change in policing methods comes at a financial and social cost to the community. This cost is both in the expense of tactical vehicles and equipment, but more critically, it is the cost of the disengagement of law enforcement from the communities being served, in particular communities of color. The people in the community and on the street are no longer known as individuals but are seen as dangerous and as opponents. More powerful weapons and equipment are requested to deal with those opponents. Innocent people are at risk and lives are lost from SWAT teams breaking into the wrong address and injuring or killing innocent people; citizens have died in standoffs in which buildings are destroyed or entire city blocks burned down. Once military style weapons systems have been purchased, there is an incentive to prove the value of the purchase by using the equipment. And difficult situations such as armed standoffs and hostage negotiations, which require a range of exceptional skills and patience to defuse or neutralize, instead become an opportunity to use extreme force with little regard to the surrounding community.

We propose that the monies requested for this armored tactical vehicle instead be invested in programs that benefit the people of Mercer County. The Sheriff’s Office has specialized units such as K-9, Fugitive, and the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team, all of which provide valuable assistance to other law enforcement agencies in the County. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office has supported other first responders during natural disasters and emergencies. Finally, the Sheriff’s Office has initiated and runs a number of worthwhile community service programs to benefit children, parents and especially seniors. We feel that the Sheriff’s Office could better spend $300,000 on human resources rather than military hardware.

Join us in expressing your opposition to the proposed armored vehicle purchase by calling the Mercer County Freeholders and attending the Freeholder meeting on Thursday, September 12, 6 PM, Room 211 of Mercer County’s McDade Administration Building, located at 640 S. Broad St. in Trenton.

Don Styker, Lawrenceville

Kani Ilangovan, M.D., West Windsor

Ted Fetter, Lawrenceville

Linda Oppenheim, Princeton

Joyce Trotman-Jordan, Trenton

Miki Mendelsohn, Princeton

Purchase of armored vehicle a waste of taxpayer money

Dear Mercer County Freeholders,

I write to express my opposition to the proposed purchase of an armored vehicle for the Sheriff’s Department. As our elected officials, we your constituents expect that you will weigh all sides of an important issue like this.

I understand that the low bid for the vehicle is $287,000….. which does not even include annual maintenance, and initial and recurring training costs. These funds can much better be spent on so many more important needs in our County, e.g. increased financial aid for MC Community College students, the social safety net which has been decimated by the current Federal Administration, repairing our roads and bridges – just to name a few.

We applaud you on holding the line on Mercer County taxes in this current fiscal year. However, for the last five years, County tax increases have far exceeded school and municipal tax increases. Here in Princeton, from 2013-18, the County tax increase was 11.2%, while the schools were up 9.1%, and municipal 7.1%. Many older and low income folks are leaving the County for this reason – priced out of their homes. I know many of them personally. What we don’t need is $287,000 plus associated annual costs added to our tax bills.

Many studies, by both academic and law enforcement organizations, have found that militarization of our police and sheriffs’ forces are counter productive – especially in tense situations. Deescalation techniques are much more effective.

We have lived in Mercer County for over 20 years, and I cannot recall a single incident where an armored vehicle like the one proposed would have helped the situation.

I would like to thank Andrew Koontz for his publicly stated opposition to this purchase. I hope you will follow his lead. Please carefully consider the above when you decide whether or not to put this ill conceived purchase on a formal agenda for a vote. I’m sure the voters of Mercer County will be watching this carefully when they go to the polls in November…..and just as importantly in the nominating process for Freeholder seats next year.

Thank you for your consideration, and for your service to our County.

John Heilner
Princeton

Contact your freeholders to voice opposition to the proposed armored vehicle purchase

The Coalition for Peace Action has joined a coalition against the purchase of an armored vehicle by the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office.

The vehicle would cost taxpayers $300,000, taking money away from other important county needs. Read this article on how police militarization fails to protect officers and targets Black communities.

We need support from community members to prevent this purchase from happening. The decision lies with the Mercer County Freeholders, so we have to make our voices heard!

They will be voting on this issue on Thursday, September 12, so we don’t have much time! There are two important actions you can take:

1) If you live in Mercer County, it is urgent that you call and/or email the Freeholders!  

If you don’t live in Mercer County, but know someone who does, please ask them to take this action! Freeholder Koontz has already committed to oppose, so email to thank him.

FREEHOLDER CONTACT INFORMATION:

Freeholder Cimino
(609) 989-6961
jcimino@mercercounty.org  

Freeholder Koontz
(609) 989-6627
akoontz@mercercounty.org  

Freeholder Cannon 
(609) 989-6560
acannon@mercercounty.org 

Freeholder Colavita
(609) 989-6980
pcolavita@mercercounty.org 

Freeholder Frisby
(609) 989-6557
sfrisby@mercercounty.org  

Freeholder Melker
(609) 989-6625
nmelker@mercercounty.org 

Freeholder Walter
(609) 989-6659
lwalter@mercercounty.org

2) Please attend the Freeholders’ upcoming meetings to speak or otherwise express your opposition to police militarization!

The Voting meeting, will be on Thursday, September 12 at 6 pm at McDade County Administration Building (640 S Broad St in Trenton), Room 211.

The Agenda meeting, which can help shape the vote, is on Tuesday, September 10 at 6 p.m.

CFPA supporters are especially urged to attend the September 12 Voting session, but if you can also come on September 10 that would be helpful.

At the meetings, you can support by holding signs, sitting with our delegation, and/or speaking against the purchase of the armored vehicle. 

Sincerely, 

The Rev. Robert Moore

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