SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (KTVU) – The San Leandro City Council on Monday night voted to approve a police department request to accept a $200,000 grant from Homeland Security to purchase an armored Bearcat Medevac.
The grant was approved by a vote of six to one despite some vocal opposition from protesters who said the vehicle is nothing more than a tank.
"We don't want to fear that the police are going to come with tear gas and rubber bullets and attack us. That is what that vehicle represents to us," said San Leandro resident Margarita LaCabe.
But the San Leandro police department sees the vehicle differently.
"It will stop those bullets it will allow us to assembly rescue teams coupled with law enforcement," said San Leandro Police Lt. Robert McManus.
Opponents said the military-style medical vehicle presents a mixed message.
"They say it's an ambulance, but as you know it has 11 gun ports. So what message is that giving out to the youth," asked Hassani Bell of San Leandro.
Police acknowledge the vehicle, which can be used by any Alameda County agency, does have numerous gun ports. But officials argue the vehicle is primarily a way to protect the public and first responders in a quicker fashion than ever before.
"It offers the ballistic protection so we can get firefighters, so we can get paramedics, so we can get our first responders in close to a scene provide first aid treatment to someone who's injured immediately," Lt. McManus.
Although a majority of the funding will come from grant money, $33,333 will be used from the city's asset forfeiture to pay San Leandro's share of the remaining balance of $100,000 to be divided among its partners Alameda County Fire, Fremont Police and fire departments.
"The initial funds may come from grant money, but how you maintaining these tanks? And by the way, Oakland has a bunch of tanks; why don't you borrow some from Oakland?" said Anita Wills of San Leandro.
"Our hopes are that we don't have to use this but the one thing that it is equipped with is medical facilities almost like an ambulance on the inside," says Lt. McManus.
Police said it will cost around $1,000 a year for vehicle upkeep. The department expects to receive the Bearcat within a year.