Gloucester Township moved closer at Monday's Council meeting to purchasing an armored vehicle for the township's police.
Council approved an ordinance that canceled $550,000 worth of appropriations from unused capital improvement funds from prior years. A portion of that money will be used toward the purchase of an armored police vehicle. Some of the expected $250,000 price tag for the vehicle will also come from proceeds from drug forfeiture cases.
The proposed purchase was again a hot-button issue for numerous residents who attended Monday's meeting.
For some residents, the cost of the armored vehicle remains a concern. Debbie Shinn, a resident of Easton Court in Sicklerville, characterized the support of the vehicle purchase as “not very good judgment.”
“I already bought and paid for one of these with my county taxes,” she said. “Why would I want to buy another?”
Paul DiBartolo's concern was not necessarily about money, but about the mere presence of an armored vehicle. He told the Council that, as a township, “we seem to be militarizing ourselves.”
“I do not think we are militarizing the township,” Council President Glen Bianchini responded. “I don't understand that concept.”
Still, other residents such as Brian Bates, agreed with the Council's support and asked members to continue to work toward the purchase of the vehicle.
“I have kids, nieces and nephews in the township,” he said. “If this vehicle can help us save lives, it'll be worth it.”
All five Council members in attendance on Monday stated their case in support of the vehicle purchase prior to the conclusion of the meeting.
“I have to support the chief's decision on the vehicle,” said Councilman Samuel Siler. “The people's safety is worth more than the cost.”
Despite some residents' opposition toward the plan, the council's unanimous support of such a vehicle should make the process of its purchase go smoothly. The council already approved the solicitation for bids on the armored vehicle at an earlier meeting this month and will begin to review the bids as they come in.
Police Chief W. Harry Earle credited Council with backing up the police.
“It was a great support of the police department,” he said. “They always have the support of the police department. It is very well-known and very clear.”
Earle, who has spearheaded the movement to acquire an armored vehicle for the township, said he was also able to speak with Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen to help clarify some misunderstandings between comments made by Gloucester Township Police Deputy Chief David Harkins on Jan. 14. Earle said those misunderstandings have been cleared up.
Earle added Gloucester Township will still have an arrangement with the county and their armored vehicle even after the township purchases its own.
“There have been situations in the past where we have needed two separate armored vehicles in different parts of the township at the same time,” Earle said.